Maybe, despite the obvious difference in quality between the recent boring heavyweight unification showdown (Klitschko-Ibragimov) and the cataclysmic little man showdown (Vazquez-Marquez III), you still have an itch to see two huge dudes walloping the bejesus out of each other.
If so, and you’re willing to sacrifice just a few pounds of earth-shaking power, David Haye-Enzo Maccarinelli — being hailed in Great Britain as the top all-British fight in about 20 years — is the scratch for your itch.
Haye and Maccarinelli are fighting one another in what has become a popular outpost for hardcore fans, the cruiserweight division. It’s one of the hottest in boxing, but it’s a relatively new one, having been christened in 1979. The division has a 200-pound limit, but don’t let that distract you, because that became the new limit, up from 190, in just 2003. History’s heavyweights have spent vast portions of their careers fighting below 200 pounds. People like Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis all fought at heavyweight at 200 pounds and under pretty frequently, and early in his career, Mike Tyson did, too. If you saw any of those men fight, you know they’re plenty big and plenty hard-hitting.
And Haye and Maccarinelli are probably the two biggest punchers in their division right now. So this should be fun, if not brutish and short.
I’m more familiar with Haye by a long-shot. This isn’t going to be the usual preview; Maccarinelli has never once been on U.S. television, and like a lot of Frank Warren-promoted fighters, there’s a Maccarinelli blackout on YouTube. I won’t even be making a prediction for that reason, because I simply haven’t seen him do much of anything except from what Maccarinelli footage is around — highlight clips, workouts, the like.
Haye has natural athletic gifts for days. His speed and power are both off the charts. He’s a highly potent offensive fighter. His defense? Yeah, not so much. Not only does he carry his left hand way too low, but he almost sticks his chin out as if to invite it to be punched. And when it’s punched well, Haye will go down. In his career-best victory, over Jean-Marc Mormeck last year in France, Haye became the consensus cruiserweight champ by knocking out the well-regarded vet, but not before things got hairy in the 4th when Mormeck dropped him. In his only loss, he was knocked out unexpectedly in 2004 by Carl Thompson. Haye said he was struggling from weight problems, by way of explanation. Really, in every fight he’s ever had at cruiserweight, he’s complained of difficulties shrinking his 6’3″ frame down into 200 lbs. He says this time he’s got it under control, but he said that last time, and since has said he was sluggish from weight difficulties in the Mormeck fight. It’s enough to make me question his devotion to his craft, but you can’t argue with the results. Haye has won 20 fights, 19 by knockout, and the Mormeck win made me a believer.
Maccarinelli’s KO record is less gaudy — 21 in 28 wins — but of the two, he’s considered more the wear-you-down kind of puncher. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t delivered the results early; after struggling to pull out a decision against Mark Hobson in early 2006, he returned later in the year to knock him out in the very first round. Considered robotic and limited early in his career, he has called on the father of fellow Welsch fighter Joe Calzaghe, to train him. Calzaghe’s pop, another Enzo, has, by all reviews, made Maccarinelli a far better boxer. In 2007, he too scored his biggest win to date, a wipeout decision over Wayne Braithewaite, who once had the look of the best cruiserweight in the division, but since has lost to Mormeck, Guillermo Jones and Maccarinelli. Like Haye, Maccarinelli has been accused of having a weak chin, but his only loss, by knockout, came early in his career.
There are big questions about both men. But both are young, powerful and vulnerable. Like I said, I don’t think this one lasts very long. But there should be some mighty big blows ricocheting around the ring for as long as it lasts. And that means even if you don’t have Tivo, you should be able to catch Haye-Maccarinelli on Showtime at 9 p.m. without missing much of the HBO double-header featuring names that are better-known in the U.S. that starts at 9:30.