When the timekeeper calls "Seconds out, round one" at a packed O2 Arena in south-east London at about 2am next Sunday, it won't be so much a matter of ringing thebell as lighting the fuse. We could be in for another early-hours earth tremor as the two biggest punchers in British boxing slug it out to settle who is the world's best cruiserweight.
If nothing else, this perfectly balanced unification battle of Britain, between David Haye and Enzo Maccarinelli, will be as explosive as it is expensive. Not since Benn and Eubank knocked bits off each other back in the early 1990s has a domestic dispute generated as much intrigue. Those forking out £1,000 for a ringside seat or £9.95 for their Setanta subscription cannot afford to blink.
The Londoner Haye has threatened to knock out the Welshman in the first round. He may well do. Equally, he could get chinned himself before the echo of the bell has faded, such is the anaesthetising potential of this engaging pair of power punchers. Between them they have had 50 fights, and 40 have failed to go the distance.
Haye has halted 14 of his 21 opponents inside three rounds and Maccarinelli 16 of 29 in three or less. Altogether, they have 15 first-round wins. So both can bang, and both can be banged out. They have lost one apiece but have also climbed off the floor to win, as Haye did when acquiring his World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Assoc-iation (WBA) titles from the Frenchman Jean-Marc Mormeck in Paris three months ago.
Haye vowed afterwards he would never again fight at cruiserweight, claiming he had not had a proper meal in 17 weeks to make the 14st 4lb limit. Instead, a future loomed as one of the world's most exciting heavyweights in a division bereft of the sort of charisma and clout he carries into the ring. But a purse of almost £1 million has changed his mind, somewhat worryingly so if he has againhad problems shedding the couple of stones that he puts on between fights.
This may be one reason why Haye decided to move his training base to the humidity of Miami, although he says it is so he can be in the same time zone that sees the fight start in the early hours for American TV.
Haye tells us: "I know I said after the Mormeck fight I would never go through that again, starving myself to make the weight, but I just feel it's going to be worthwhile. If you want to work on your legacy, you've got to make sacrifices, and my sacrifice for this fight is that I'm taking it at a weight I normally wouldn't want to fight at again.
"One of the things that makes it so appealing is that people think it's a dangerous one for me; it's like them wanting to see a car crash. Everyone knows he punches real hard and we've both been knocked down by lesser punchers, so someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get knocked out. I don't believe it's going to be me."
Not that Haye, a one-time wild child on London's luvvie circuit, is all crash, bang, wallop. A boxer, he says, was all that he ever wanted to be. "Mum tells me I was born with a black eye and with my fists clenched."
A former World Amateur Championships silver medallist, Haye can box speedily and with style. "The sort of guys I've struggled with are not those like Maccarinelli but the shorter ones who come forward and try to get under my jab," he says. "He's taller than me so I won't have to go looking for his chin, it's going to be right there in my face. I don't think I'll have a problem getting to him."
The Boxing Board have been monitoring Haye's weight regularly but he claims: "The only way the weight factor could be a problem is if the fight is a long, gruelling one. But I don't think his chin is good enough for it to go late. He will be put under so much heat early doors. But I might hold him up for a few rounds and put on a bit of an exhibition to show I'm not just a one-punch pony."
Haye says he has been offering his $200-a-round sparring partners $1,000 if they can knock him down. "They've all been trying to chin me, but none have."
For his part, the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) champion Maccarinelli, the stablemate, sparmate and best mate of fellow Italian-Celt Joe Calzaghe, promises "12 of the most brutal rounds in British boxing history", adding: "Everyone goes on about his weight situation, but that's the same with a lot of boxers. Look at Ricky Hatton, even Joe [Calzaghe] has to lose a couple of stones before every fight.
"Come fight night, after the weigh-in, David will probably be a stone heavier than me, regardless of what he's put his body through, because he will be able to put a bit of it back on. All this talk about weight seems to be an excuse if he loses.
"The public demanded this fight and now they've got it. If it goes 12 rounds, I'll be fighting at the same pace as I was in the first, but will he? He is a fine champion, but if he thinks he can beat me he's delusional. I'll punch a hole in his head."
Haye has less to lose than Maccarinelli because, whatever happens, his future is with the heavy mob. The bookies favour his Hayemaker landing on Maccarinelli's chin early on but if not, with the stamina ebbing from his legs in the later rounds, he may get clobbered himself.
Will he who draws first bethe last man standing in thering's High Noon? It's a question weighing heavily on the mind.
How they measure up
Height: 6ft 3in
Record: 21 fights, 19 KOs, 1 defeat Titles: WBC, WBA
Aka: The Hayemaker
Trainer: Adam Booth
Best shot: Right uppercut
Weak spot: Stamina
Height: 6ft 4in
Record: 29 fights, 21 kos, 1 defeat Title: WBO
Aka: Big Mac
Trainer: Enzo Calzaghe
Best shot: Left hook
Weak spot: Suspect chin
Great British bouts
Nigel Benn v Chris Eubank, Birmingham, 18 November 1993
Their first clash, for the WBO middleweight title, was one of the most savage fights in British boxing history, with Eubank taking terrible punishment before stopping Benn on his feet in the ninth. "I had to keep asking the Good Lord to help me out," said a bloodied Eubank.
John H Stracey v Dave 'Boy' Green, Wembley, 29 March 1977
One of the most ferocious wars ever staged at Wembley saw the Cockney ex-champ Stracey, his left eye closed, rescued from the clubbing fists that country boy Green called his "muckspreaders" in the 10th round of a final eliminator for the world welterweight title.
Ken Buchanan v Jim Watt, Glasgow, 29 January 1973
Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night has never seen a more pulsating punch-up than this 15-round classic between two Scottish warriors for the British lightweight title, witnessed by just 600 fans in a hotel ballroom. The newly deposed world champion Buchanan just edged his younger opponent.
Henry Cooper v Joe Bugner, Wembley, 16 March 1971
"Our 'Enry", 37, lost his long-standing British and European heavyweight titles in his last fight to the 21-year-old Hungarian émigré Bugner on a highly controversial points decision. "I thought I nicked it, 'Arry," Cooper complained to the referee, Harry Gibbs. "Champions don't nick nothing," replied Gibbs, who later sued Cooper over comments made about the verdict in his autobiography.
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