Reputations On The Line: Manny Pacquiao, David Haye And Wladimir Klitschko Come Under Fire For Their Choice Of Opponents, But Which One Of Them Does Defeat Hurt Most?

Despite the surfeit of pleasing fixtures on boxing’s immediate horizon, there are a trio of match-ups in the pipeline which have provoked outrage, nay horror among boxing fans. Featuring bright lights of the sport pitted against rivals deemed unfit for purpose, inflammation has been acute. “Undeserving of the call” say some, “a disgrace befouling the sport” bemoan others. With their detractors’ hackles already veering skywards, anything less than stellar wins for this pocket of star turns would bring about the biggest backlash since Mel Gibson did Easter.

For heavyweights David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko the gripe tossed their way has been the same, yet the level of ire stapled to the back of it has not. In selecting Finchley’s Dereck Chisora, Klitschko can, to an extent, argue that his hand was forced, thanks to the disinclination of more qualified men to meet with his unfathomable jab over in Germany. Haye, meanwhile, hand picked his old mucker Audley Harrison with the sole intention of distending his treasure chest further, despite having the luxury of more professionally rewarding challenges at his disposal. Regardless of the selection process, both Klitschko and Haye will be touching gloves with underdogs who can be backed at or around the 6/1 mark.

Pacquiao’s folly in the eyes of his critics is a bit of both. Unable to lure Floyd Mayweather into a sporting bonanza, a substitute was shoehorned in. With his promoter fixing to match stable members together as part of a clever ruse, one that ensures he leaves with his arm around the winner’s shoulders no matter the result, the search narrowed somewhat. And although more taxing opposition was available to the Filipino at the 150 lb catchweight he eventually settled upon, it can be argued that none would have generated the amount of dollars his promotional buddy (Antonio Margarito) will undoubtedly rake in. There is of course another contributing factor to the bout’s bilious undertone.

Unless you’ve been chillaxing in a nearby cave for an extended period (and if so, welcome back, we’re now in recession!) you should be fully versed in the travails of Tijuana Tony. There’s an ongoing quarrel over whether the guy should be punching for pay at all, yet that matters not tuppence ha’penny to Antonio or his promoter, who are making the most of their lot within the largely lawless industry they operate. That’s cricket.

Margarito is given about as much chance of having his mitt raised against Pacquiao as Chisora and Harrison are against Klitschko and Haye which, when we’re talking about two horse races, is not really much of a chance at all.

So, bearing in mind the level of hatchet sharpening in evidence before events have even begun, which one of our triumvirate’s reps would face the biggest lopping should they suffer the ignominy of defeat?

Let’s imagine Audley Harrison is standing over the prone figure of his former padawan moments after landing the left hand he’s been prophesising about since Sydney. The recoil would be as devastating as it’d be swift and Haye’s career would be laid out alongside him in bits. For if the Bermondsey bomber were to cock this one up he’d have the British press corps falling over themselves to supply the first boot (and there can be no more caustic reviewers of a fallen idol than the quill bearers from Fleet Street). The Klitschko dalliance would surely be over, America would breathe a huge sigh of relief in the knowledge that their heavyweight curse had returned east whence it came, and good old Audley would have a new biography in the shops by Xmas.

Haye would be an absolute laughing stock. Already pilloried in the U.S. for welching on the very bout(s) he publicly rallied for, he’s also managed to turn off a whole raft of British fans by assuming the role of sadistic bully to Audley’s plucky dreamer. With his self imposed shelf life of 346 days ticking down, he’d be left chasing his tail trying to make amends.

Should Chisora elect to go against the grain and throw punches at the heavyweight champ (shock, horror!) and, stay with me here, should he somehow manage to land enough to win him the fight, how far would Klitschko’s star wane?

Wlad has been garnering himself some respect of late. He’s inched up into Ring Magazine’s pound for pound top ten on the back of his monotonous winning streak, one which has deftly nudged away long standing suspicions over his chin and his spirit. A loss to a fourteen fight novice at this stage of the game would undo much of that good work and forever rubber stamp him as a flawed fighter.

Whilst his incredible popularity in Germany would likely survive such a disaster, his chances of breaking back into HBO’s immediate plans would dim further. He’d also be an ex-champ. And with Chisora contracted to face brother Vitali should he pull off the upset, there’d be no guarantee Wlad would get his paws back on the heavyweight gold anytime soon, if ever.

Manny Pacquiao is about as hot right now as a prizefighter ever gets. One would assume that a fall from that lofty a perch would make quite a splat. Here’s the thing, though: unlike the aforementioned heavyweight duo, Pacquiao has already established his greatness. Defeat to a comparably much bigger man could probably be explained away to a degree and it’s unlikely that Pacquiao will go quietly or find himself blitzkreiged in the way that Haye or Klitschko might.

One area that defeat would very definitely cost him, though, is at the bargaining table. Whilst a loss would strip his cryogenically frozen mega-match with Floyd Mayweather of much lustre, it would strip him of his bartering chips even more. And boy would Floyd lead him a merry dance in the process.

Gone also would be the greatest title of all: king of boxing.

Although Pacquiao has most to lose in terms of status within the sport, defeat would leave him someplace you could quite easily envision him clambering back from. And while another Klitschko stumble would be pretty catastrophic, Wlad has the fan base, enough good years still ahead of him and backup in the shape of Vitali to resurrect himself once more.

Defeat for Haye would be ruinous. Joke of the week in his homeland, a t-shirt, at best, and nothing more than a fraud in less charitable sections of the globe. The man who rode so brazenly into Lago will be left to limp out the other side of it on the back of a clapped out, knackered old donkey.

Read more from Andrew Harrison at Safe Side of the Ropes.

About Tim Starks

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