A Case For David Haye Over Wladimir Klitschko

Since David Haye first crashed the heavyweight scene, talk has centered around the Brit facing-off against a Klitschko brother, namely Ring champ Wladimir.

Haye (25-1, 23 KOs) was originally slated to fight Wladimir Klitschko (55-3, 49 KOs) on June 20 of last year. But before the highly-anticipated heavyweight clash could take place in Germany, Haye pulled out, citing a back injury.

There were whispers aplenty that the supposed back injury was fake and that Haye backed out due to Setanta Sports folding, the English TV sports giant that was to broadcast the fight on pay-per-view across the U.K. Due to the bankruptcy, Haye stood to lose out on a substantial amount of money, as he wouldn’t receive the upside of the PPV earnings.

Wladimir wound up keeping the date and defeated Ruslan Chagaev, a win which filled the vacancy for the Ring championship, as Chagaev was ranked No. 3 at the time by “The Bible of Boxing.” HBO, which was to televise the Klitschko-Haye encounter, decided not to air the bout against Chagaev, citing fan disinterest in the heavyweight division. Haye was the one pegged to bring the excitement back to boxing’s glamour division.

Just a few months later, there were talks between Haye’s camp and big brother Vitali for a September tilt, but Haye dissented, deciding to instead face Russian giant Nicolay Valuev, whom he defeated via majority decision.

Again, talk is swirling around a Wlad Klitschko-Haye fight for 2011, the second most anticipated fight in the sport after Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao.

The majority of fans and observers want to see the fight simply so that the brash Haye can finally receive his “comeuppence,” but I don’t see that happening. I see “The Hayemaker” bringing the fight to “Dr. Steelhamer” and knocking him out like so many others have in the past — Ross Purity, Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster to be exact – much to the shock of the boxing world, but not this writer (I’m less sure he could defeat Vitali, so we’ll focus on little brother).

In order to pull off a perceived upset, a fighter must possess a particular set of attributes, specifically self-belief — belief that he can win the fight. And we all know Haye doesn’t lack in that department.

Now, you might say, “Haye has had many chances to fight a Klitschko and hasn’t, he must be scared.” Quite the contrary.

Haye is an intelligent and calculating man. I believe he is simply biding his time.

Prior to the original proposed bout against Wladimir, the former Ring cruiserweight champ had fought just twice at heavyweight, a “test the waters” bout against lightly-regarded Tomasz Bonin, where he scored a 1st round KO victory, followed by two more bouts at cruiser, then a 5th round stoppage of veteran Monte Barrett.

Since the cancellation of the bout, Haye has fought three more times at heavy — victories over Valuev and John Ruiz — and this past weekend’s KO of Audley Harrison in England.

Haye, ranked No. 2 at heavyweight by The Ring, needed more seasoning at heavyweight before fighting a boxer the ilk of Wladimir Klitschko and he has it now.

I believe he went through all the theatrics of calling out each Klitschko and spewing derogatory names to keep interest in the proposed bouts, and he has certainly succeed in that regard.

Now, I think Haye will follow-through and fight a Klitschko in 2011, most likely Wladimir, for all the marbles.

In addition to self-belief (no one outside of the U.K. and possibly this writer think Haye will win other than himself), he owns a dazzling array of speed and power not seen by many heavyweights in recent memory. He has devastating power in both hands, knocking out all but two of his victims. He’s the first one to stop John Ruiz since David Tua in 1996, ridding boxing of “The Quiet Man.” And he is always in great physical shape and condition, and comes to fight, something that can’t be said of most recent Wlad Klitschko opponents.

Furthermore, Haye is young at 30 years of age and will not have a severe height disadvantage, standing tall at 6’ 3” to Wlad’s 6’ 6”.

“Dr. Steelhamer” is used to fighting slow, plodding heavies who either seem to show up for a paycheck (see Rahman, Hasim) or are ill-equipped to deal with the champion’s size.

The boxing world talks as if Wladimir is unbeatable. Am I crazy, or is this the same guy who has been knocked out on three occasions and had to get off the deck thrice to defeat Sam Peter? He was even dropped against the aptly named “Touch of Sleep” DaVarryl Williamson (because he is so boring) in a dreary affair.

Yes, Wlad is much-improved under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward, but has that glass chin gone away? No. He has simply learned to protect it better and fight “tall.” If an explosive fighter like Haye can land, all bets go out the window.

Most observers point to Haye’s chin as the reason he won’t be able to defeat Wlad and it’s quite a fair point. He was, after all, knocked out at the hands of an aging Carl Thompson years back. At heavyweight, he was dropped against Monte Barrett (a flash knockdown). Many fighters, though, discover a better chin when moving up in weight, such as Manny Pacquiao, who was knocked out twice at flyweight, yet can withstand punches from the likes of Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto.

After Wlad’s December 11 contest against Derek Chisora, talk will again revolve around a bout against Haye. If and when the fight finally happens, I believe Haye will put Wlad to sleep. I simply can’t shake the image of Wlad crawling back to his corner against Brewster. And I don’t think he has forgotten either. Though no fault of his own, Wlad has been fighting a bunch of stiffs. When he finally meets the only worthy challenger to his crown not related to him, he is likely to be in for a rude awakening. Or maybe just a reminder of the past. And if Wladimir feels Haye’s power, he won’t enjoy the familiar feeling of being hurt in a heavyweight contest. He is gun shy in his fights for a reason.

Unlike Teddy Atlas, I don’t pick Wladimir Klitschko to lose every contest — just this one.

Mike Coppinger has covered boxing for USA Today, SecondsOut.com and The Ring Magazine. Write to him at mikecoppinger@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeCoppinger.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.