James Lawton: Once the talking stopped, boxing's great charlatan was found totally lacking
Haye made much of what he was going to do to Klitschko but he couldn't lay a hand on him. Now he should leave us all in peace
Monday 04 July 2011
One of the surviving beauties of the ring is that nowhere on earth are you less likely to maintain a myth, especially when it is as grotesquely inflated as the one that carried David Haye to an estimated £15m pay night in Hamburg.
Predictably, Wladimir Klitschko removed Haye's credentials as a serious heavyweight contender, and still less a reigning world champion, as formally as a member of the Fraud Squad feeling a collar.
Haye pinpointed an injured toe as the reason for his profound failure to deliver even the beginnings of his promise to expose the "robotic" Klitschko.
Elsewhere, there must be another diagnosis when the worst of the hype dwindles to nothing more than an unfortunate memory for all those who made their contribution. It is that when the first bell sounded Haye faced a call to his heart and his nerve to which he was simply unable to respond.
The malevolent propagandist was thus inevitably exposed as the counterfeit heavyweight.
Ten thousand British fans responded to their hero's grubby bait, booing the Ukrainian national anthem, buying the Haye declaration that he would liberate the heavyweight division from the "boring" rule of the big man. Their punishment, received along with Haye, was a basic lesson in the realities of professional fighting.
Before the fight which he had sold with trash talk of unprecedented tastelessness – and on the back of four heavyweight victories which were utterly lacking in any serious guidance as to how he might perform in anything vaguely resembling a legitimate examination of his credentials in a new division – Haye was entitled to a time-honoured benefit of the doubt.
His braggadocio and sneers were at least underpinned by a willingness to engage a heavyweight champion who, given these days of impoverishment, could be described as authentic.
Bigger, stronger, deeply self-schooled in fighting to his strengths, which did not include the most shock-proof of chins, Klitschko represented a formidable challenge to a cruiserweight yet to face even the flimsiest examination.
The trouble was Haye simply wasn't up to it. He didn't have a fight plan – or if he did, it was one he was unable to coherently operate.
He delayed his entrance by 10 minutes but, long before the end of a deeply tedious fight, you had to wonder why he had bothered to turn up, other than to collect a pay cheque which has to be seen as the last word in boxing inflation.
After scoring the fight overwhelmingly for Klitschko, the former fine world lightweight champion turned TV analyst Jim Watt offered the consolation that Haye would always be honoured as a world champion in two divisions.
What, you have to ask, is there to cherish in Haye's intervention in heavyweight affairs?
Surely it is not four victories taken from the dregs of a division which once provided sport with its most compelling figure – and then something that didn't begin to pass for a challenge to the champion upon whom he had heaped so much scorn.
Nor a sustained assault on the belief that a heavyweight title, however easily gained, automatically imposed certain requirements on its holder; a modicum of respect, perhaps, for fellow battlers in an unforgiving trade, and a sense that almost every public utterance should not be some nauseating insult to the intelligence of his audience.
Give to Haye, certainly, his cruiserweight battle ribbons. But then dismiss the parade.
Dismiss, too, the idea that we are required to bury Haye's fighting heart on account of a wounded toe. If Haye believed it prevented him from fighting a decent fight and that he was condemned to the parody of one he produced in the Hamburg arena, his obligation, plainly, was to withdraw.
But then that would have meant a financial rather than competitive disaster.
What we were left with from Haye were some hopeful lunges, and wearisome visits to the canvas which eventually led an exasperated but errant referee, who had earlier docked a point from Klitschko for leaning in, imposing a spurious count for a phantom knockdown. Haye was, of course, right about Klitschko's cautious, robotic tendency and, in the end, he must have felt a degree of gratitude.
This was because it would not have been pleasant to imagine what someone like Lennox Lewis or the real Evander Holyfield, who so brilliantly moved into the heaviest division, or the hugely under-rated Larry Holmes would have done to the pretensions of Haye. But then maybe we shouldn't torment ourselves with such time-expired musings.
Maybe it is merely necessary to say that Klitschko, in his ponderous but disciplined way, announced that there was still a standard set in heavyweight boxing, still the need to mount an effort of significant will and fighting intelligence to gain the title.
There were no prizes for deciding on Haye's best strategy. It was advocated by no less than Lewis and George Foreman – in the latter case presumably in one of his more lucid moments before announcing that on his scorecard the fight finished even.
Haye had to get inside Klitschko's long reach and relentless jab; he had to go to the mouth of the cannon. Instead, he fought a largely aimless fight at hopelessly long range, even when, as in the fourth round, he managed to disturb the calm of Klitschko with a combination followed by a hard right.
It meant that all the rancid hyperbole, all the posturing, of Haye was stripped down and exposed as nonsense by his conqueror's routine performance. The collision was so poor because while Klitschko fought his fight on entirely his own terms, Haye suggested he didn't really have a clue as to what he was about. He promised shock, a moving of the heavyweight earth, but instead delivered a statement of confusion and inadequacy.
He should forget about any fresh intrigues or confected drama. He might want to retract some of his most outrageous statements – he might even reflect that his legacy, such as it is, might be well served by a breath of humility, an admission that in the end he found himself out of his depth – in and out of the ring. In any event, he should take his profits – and give us all a little peace.
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