James Lawton: A crime against boxing in which everyone involved was complicit

Haye's only recourse is to take one of the two fights he has been so strenuously avoiding since the start of his heavyweight pantomime

Yes, what happened in a boxing ring in Manchester on Saturday night had to be described as a crime – and no less shocking for being so easily anticipated.

The indictment is of fraud perpetrated not only by the promoters of David Haye's sickening dispatch of the ultimately pathetic Audley Harrison but all those who, down from the great Lennox Lewis, simultaneously affected a knowledge of boxing and still gave the wretched affair even a scintilla of credence.

You were either complicit in the scam, or hopelessly gullible, if you set foot in the MEN Arena or, say, paid £40 to watch on a big screen in somewhere like the Sports Café in the West End of London.

The first boos came before the referee was obliged to remind the combatants that they were involved in something called a fight and that while larceny was one thing, bare-faced, egregious, contemptuous, shameless thievery was something else again.

Don't let anyone tell you this was a fight that went wrong when the first bell sounded. It was one that should have been killed at birth and with no more punishing a weapon than pure, undiluted scorn.

Haye, whose capacity to insult the intelligence of the public is unlimited – although it has to be said he has scarcely lacked encouragement – brought a new refinement when he announced that he and his friends had wagered heavily on a third-round stoppage. For the average mug punter, this must have felt a bit like having the shirt just removed from his back shredded and sprinkled over his head.

No heavyweight champion had ever entered the ring with phonier credentials than Haye. He was praised for a "defensive masterclass" when winning his WBA crown against an embarrassingly shambolic, and non-aggressive, Russian giant named Nikolai Valuev. His one defence before the weekend fiasco was against John Ruiz, who was less than impressive in his youth but by the time he faced Haye in his late thirties was so eroded he was, as the Americans describe no-hope opponents, no better than a "tomato can".

The former Olympic champion Harrison's situation is almost beyond boxing analysis. The BBC gave him a million pounds of public money to launch a career that was made somewhat questionable by his confession that working with the pros in the gym tended to give him a headache. His four defeats as a professional include one by a Belfast taxi driver. His lack of resolution against Haye would have been pitiful but for the fact that he was said to be earning the best part of another million for another dreadful impersonation of a serious fighter.

This, of course, didn't check another wave of self-congratulation from the Hayemaker. No one is saying that he lacks ability, only that it is utterly unproven at the heavyweight level, which is unfortunate in a successor to the likes of Ali, Tyson and Lewis, who, whatever his contractual commitments, must, we can only hope, have felt a strong urge to walk away from Saturday's scandal.

Haye's only recourse, if he is at all interested, is to take one of the two fights he has been so strenuously avoiding since the start of his heavyweight pantomime.

He must meet the men who have a share of the title, the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali. It is the least he can do after inviting such ridicule on a prize that used to be the most celebrated in all of sport. Either that, or take his lightly earned money and keep on running from anything that even vaguely resembles a genuine heavyweight fight.

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