Boxing: Giant-slayer Haye set to make millions
Fame and riches await Britain's new heavyweight champion
Monday 09 November 2009
As any PR-savvy theologian will tell you, slaying a giant is a great way to boost your profile.
When brave David, himself no more than a welterweight, stepped out to face Goliath he was already a member of King Saul's court, but it was his nonchalant dispatching of a nine-and-a-half-foot Philistine that marked his arrival in the big time. Women sang about him, he commanded armies and, before long, his irrepressible popularity landed him on the throne of the kingdom of Israel.
Like his namesake, Britain's fourth world heavyweight champion, David Haye (6ft 3in and 15st), who defeated Russia's Nikolai Valuev (7ft 2in and 22st) in Nuremberg in 12 rounds on Saturday night, also rose from humble beginnings to a position of power. The 29-year-old grew up in the insalubrious surroundings of Bermondsey, south London, but after last night's victory has the potential to reawaken the once-glamorous heavyweight division and make himself a global star.
Commercial endorsements and product tie-ins will follow. "The world is his oyster," said Phil Cage, one of Haye's management team, as they flew home yesterday evening. "People are already reaching out to David. We're waiting for the right opportunities. I think we know where we're going, but we're keeping it to ourselves at the moment."
The British boxing manager and promoter Frank Warren confirmed Haye's potential, but said: "He has to capture the imagination of the American public. Of course he's going to be a big deal here. But when you take away all the flag-waving and the freak-show element, it was a dull fight. If it hadn't involved a Brit I would have turned it off."
His American counterpart, promoter Richard Schaefer, begged to differ. "There are a lot of stars out there but really very few who have the talent and skills inside the ring and can transcend that with their charisma outside the ring," he said. "And if you were to rank those champions, then the only one at the top is David Haye."
The Ukrainian brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko hold all the other world heavyweight titles between them. Haye is already talking about a "mega-showdown" with Vitali. "When did we last have a world heavyweight champion?" said the publicist Max Clifford. "He's a good-looking guy. But he's got to become known to a wider audience. Get him on The X Factor. Get him a part in the next Bond movie. Get him on Jonathan Ross.
"Recently boxing seems to have gone down the wrestling route. He could be the man to change all that. Get him an exhibition bout in Afghanistan, with all the troops watching, perhaps on Christmas Day." Where he will be in 12 months hinges on one question. "If Haye can beat the Klitschkos," says Warren, "he'd be very marketable."
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