By Trigo Egbegi
IN what amounts to no more than a mere typhoon stirring in a tiny tea cup, millions are still up in arms over the botched coronation in Germany.
No thanks to David Haye for the rather superficial impressions he made in the course of his failed attempt at scaling a steep human mountain last weekend in Hamburg.
When a man (un)willingly accepts to carry the whole world on his shoulders to go along with his own responsibilities, then he must get prepared for the consequences. The warm Englishman may have been paying attention less to his own world heavyweight title unification details than to meeting the demands/expectations of a section advocating a changing of the guard.
So it was with fighting King David who had been our supposedly brightest nominee for the road crusade, assigned with the responsibility of hunting down a slew of Goliaths out of the old Soviet bloc currently terrorizing heavyweight boxing.
For a while, all seemed to be ok as Haye made it a welcome habit of chopping down monsters with his tongue, then executing them with his fists (Nikolai Valuev and Audley Harrison). That was until he ran into a Klitschko.
The Vladimir Klitschko Vs David Haye title unification is now history. And, just in case you are wondering why Yours Truly is not overly excited about the outcome, I can only say I find no emergent factor that was totally at variance with pre-fight prognostication adduced in this column. If there was an area I failed to measure up to par, it was, perhaps, the quality of action that summed up the scheduled 12-round event.
Artistically, Wladimir Vs Haye inside the well-attended Imtech Arena in Hamburg was an exhibition better suited for trained eyes than for those on the look-out for do-daring and reckless abandon that are major ingredients of excitement. Here was a match-up of two well schooled pupils of the noble art, each too conscious of his known point of physical frailty to hazard a risk.
Which brings to mind the celebrated Sugar Ray Leonard Vs Wilfredo Benitez WBC welterweight title fixture of Nov 30, 1979, placed side by side with the no less celebrated Marvelous Marvin Hagler Vs. Thomas Hearns middleweight title bout of April 15, 1985. While Hagler/Hearns kept the- over-twenty thousand live spectators and millions of Tv viewers the world over breathless every second of the less-than seven minutes of warfare the scheduled 12-rounder lasted, it was Leonard/Benitez who, in my books, provided the more polished interpretation of the noble art.
For all the eagerly anticipated mayhem and polish, Wladimir/Haye fell hundreds of miles short of what the middleweight gladiators provided a quarter century ago, as it rated thousands of miles behind the welterweight masterpiece in question.
For all his vaunted skill level I have known Wladimir Klitschko too well as a reserved performer who would only raise or lower his game enough to accommodate an opponent. The 49 Kayos in his 55 career wins belies the fact that the multi-decorated champion is not a man of reckless abandon inside the ring.
Beaming the spotlight to the other corner, I found in Haye the man on whom lay the expectations of the world to bring back the lustre and warmth heavyweight boxing has been missing since the title fell on the laps of the brothers from the cold land. Methinks such burden was uncalled for, and contributed in no small measure to the pressure the dethroned WBA chieftain took along into the ring.
I was never averse to the forecasts tipping Haye to upset his better fancied adversary. Of the deluge of text/emails that reached my end in the days leading to the fight, a vast majority fancied an upset – even if it came from their hearts. Well, my heart equally said “Aye”, whereas my head said “Nay” – ala National Assembly in Abuja.
While acknowledging Haye’s proven ring potential, I have always chosen to be guided by nature’s cardinal rule about a good big man having the edge over a good little man – although, allowing for the few that have been exceptions to the rule. The smaller Haye had not showed me he could be an exception.
Haye won the pre-fight battle of words, but, then, blew the one that mattered. I, personally, had expected a lot more from the younger man despite the 30 pound/four inch weight/height handicap he carried into the fray. The wide unanimous points score sheet was clear indication that at no point during the fight did David Haye figure a way out to solve his towering opponent.
I’m tempted to go back to the calculating Leonard who showed how to figure out an uncompromising rival, and when to abandon fear/caution for reckless abandon, if that was the way to victory. The Sugarman was half-blind and trailing on the score sheets when he exploded with the avalanche to wreck Hearns that memorable September 16, 1981 night in Las Vegas.
The above not withstanding, I must concede that even in defeat Haye was able to raise the hitherto pathetic heavyweight title challenge level against the Klitschko Clan. That night Klitschko didn’t wear a toga of invincibility, although he wasn’t unduly troubled and won with much to spare.
Haye’s weekend effort was a lot better than those turned in by Shannon Briggs, Odlanier Solis and our own Samuel Peter.
As regards a rematch, I don’t think Haye has earned one. The Englishman need not get us pissed off with bits and pieces of excuses normally peddled by crybabies. For him to make reference to an injured toe is an unacceptable alibi coming in the wake of an understandably, unavoidable, defeat. When Leonard lost his Welter marbles to Roberto Duran June 20, 1980 in Montreal, he humbly went into quiet soul searching. He returned five months later a better man.
No matter the stakes, no fighter is under compulsion to climb into the ring when he is not certified 100 percent fit, even if that leads to a postponement of the event. Klitschko Vs Haye was no bigger event than Foreman Vs Ali (1974), HAgler Vs Mugabi (1986), Oscar De la Hoya Vs Ike Quartey (1999), and other notable fixtures that had to be rescheduled on account of injury. At no time has such a fighter been sanctioned.
Fitness is a key requirement in the sport to guarantee maximum, unimpeded performance. Beyond that, it is a transparent imperative of contemporary times when the establishment is responding positively to demands to make boxing safer.