Bunce on Boxing: Rumble in the Jungle was nearly KO’d by a stray elbow

“The 11-month gap between fights robbed me of the title. I know it did”

When Filip Hrgovic’s right elbow sliced through both the epidermis and dermis, leaving David Haye requiring six stitches from a plastic surgeon, the pair joined a list of unfortunate fighters.

The cut happened late on Friday night in the second round of the last day of Haye’s sparring for this Saturday’s fight against Tyson Fury and everybody in the Vauxhall gym knew that the fight was off. Hrgovic, a Croat was not even the most dangerous of Haye’s six or so sparring partners but he was just in the right place at the right time to end the multimillion-pound night.

Haye had six stitches inserted above his left eye and will find out later this week how long he will be out of the ring; there is bold talk of a December fight but next March or even April looks far more likely. Fury, meanwhile, will probably take a contest next month to stay busy, which is the sensible option.

There seemed to be genuine remorse in Haye’s voice when he apologised to Fury and to all the fans who were due to pack the sold-out former MEN Arena in Manchester. I believe he is genuine because the purse, thought to be in excess of £3m, was the sole motivation for the fight and a long break could lead to the bout never happening.

It looked like one of the greatest fights in history would never happen when, in September 1974, George Foreman was cut above the right eye by Bill McMurray’s left elbow. The pair were finishing off a long training camp at their base in Kinshasa, Zaire, when the cut, tiny compared to Haye’s gash, opened up  with just eight days left before the Rumble in the Jungle’s original date of 25 September.

In addition to what has been said about Foreman trying to leave the country – there are lurid tales of armed guards confiscating his passport – it is a little-known fact that Muhammad Ali was even more desperate to flee and return to America. However, Ali, who would be in Zaire for a total of 57 days, sought wise counsel, stayed and exploited Foreman’s desire to run away. “Ali kept telling everybody that ‘George is scared, George doesn’t like Africa, George doesn’t like Africans.’ Ali just put up with it,” said Gene Kilroy, Ali’s friend and business manager.

Had either boxer left Zaire there is every chance that, for a variety of financial reasons, one of sport’s most iconic events would have simply never taken place. They both had to stay, not exactly prisoners but they were each warned about the consequences of flight by President Mobutu Sese Seko’s  henchmen. He was, after all, a nasty little despot who ran Zaire for 32 years and he was delighted when the pair finally fought on 30 October.

When Ray Webb, a good little fighter from Hackney, landed flush with a right hand on Michael Watson’s nose in November 1989 it was the last day, last round and last few seconds of sparring for Watson’s WBA middleweight title fight against Mike McCallum. “ What could I do? Ray was an old friend,  a good friend,” said Watson.

The nose was broken and the fight at the Alexandra Palace was off. Watson had not fought since May and McCallum, perhaps realising the delay would be longer than expected, took a hard, 12-round defence in February 1990 against Steve Collins. Watson could only look on in despair.

He finally got his chance against McCallum in April 1990 but Watson had been out of the ring for 11 months and the inactivity cruelly ruined his performance; he was stopped in the 11th round and his timing looked off. “The 11-month gap robbed me of the title. I know it did, but I can’t blame Ray,” Watson said.

Nobody is blaming McMurray, Webb or even big Filip for their wayward elbows and well-placed punches but it is, all the same, a dreadful shame when a big fight collapses at such short notice. Fury was probably at a peak mentally and physically, and I hope he can maintain it; Haye thrives on long breaks and, once the cosmetic stuff is over, will be back to normal.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments