(If you didn’t get to see the David Haye-Monte Barrett fight because it foolishly was not broadcast in America, It’s after the jump in three clips.)
The big question about David Haye as a heavyweight should never have been related to his speed or power. As he established rather definitively in knocking down Monte Barrett several dozen times per round en route to a 5th round stoppage, he possesses both in abundance at heavyweight just as he did as cruiserweight (200 lbs.) king. And if anyone tells you he should have finished Barrett off more easily, don’t listen; Barrett lasted longer against Wladimir Klitschko, and kept stubbornly getting back up against Nicolay Valuev, so he’s tough juice. The real question was what would happen when a real heavyweight hit him, considering he never took a shot all that well against smaller men.
As it happens, though, the subject of the first question may be the answer to the second. Barrett, a real heavyweight if not a gigantic one, couldn’t touch Haye, landing a couple jabs and one or two big punches that Haye avoided taking flush. Haye never has been a defensive genius — his dangling left hand and tendency toward wild slugging are dangerous habits, to say the least — but he’s sharp enough technically and above all, fast enough at this weight to avoid getting hit. If the question never gets asked directly to Haye’s chin, then he’s sidestepped the whole matter. Barrett’s not a slow man. Haye was at warp seven comparatively.
Haye wants one of the Klitschko brothers next, and Barrett is no Klitschko brother. They are accurate punchers who fight intelligently, to the point of excessive safety. Barrett did a lot of big swinging and big missing, but the Klitschkos are going to try to jab Haye into submission before unloading the heavy artillery. Haye surely has the power to test Wladimir Klitschko’s shaky chin, and possibly even Vitali’s, something no one — not even Lennox Lewis — has ever done. And Setanta’s commentating team correctly noted, with Vitali in attendance with a mike and smiling coyly, that Haye looked like he could be muscled around by a heavyweight in clinches, something the Klitshckos do as easily to their opponents as breathing. Vitali said he wanted Lewis, a Brit, to unretire and fight him and for Haye, also a Brit, to fight his brother. If that scenario happens, the increasing hostility between the West and Russia will surely be ratcheted up to another level. I wonder how any of it would sell in the United States, where the public loves its heavyweights but is very parochial.
But one of the Klitschkos needs to get in there with Haye. It’s not anything to be skeptical of anymore. It’s a legit fight. One way or the other, Haye — who with his mouth, looks and finishing skills is everything you could want in a figurehead for the sport — proved tonight he can hang with a real heavyweight. And for the first time in a very, very long time, I’m suddenly, truly excited about the prospect of a fight between two men in boxing’s physically biggest division.