What a shame the downpour in Hamburg failed to wash David Haye out into the Elbe tonight as the obnoxious heavyweight pretender dropped a dreary decision to Wladimir Klitschko over 12 spirit-crushing rounds at the Imtech Arena. Final scores were 118-108, 117-109, and 116-110.
It was an easy–if unimpressive–win for Klitschko, 242 1/2, no harder, in fact, than his monotonous workouts against Eddie Chambers, Ruslan Chagaev, and Sultan Ibragimov. Klitschko appeared tight early, and got his jab untracked after two or three rounds. He also pressed what little action there was in Hamburg, but there was little he could do against an opponent who spent more time on his knees than on offense for 36 minutes of farce.
Haye, 212 1/2, was so pathetic that even referee Gino Rodriguez got sick of his act. Adam Booth has been credited in the past for some sharp strategery—as George W. Bush might put it—but his tactic of having Haye drop deliberately to the canvas every time Klitschko tried to lean on him backfired when Rodriguez caught on. Rodriguez docked a point from Klitschko in the 7th for pulling Haye down by the neck, but in the 11th Haye flopped for the umpteenth time, and Rodriguez decided to rule it a knockdown as a punitive measure.
Losing by 10, 8, and 6 points, Haye managed to make denigrated fighters like Tony Thompson look good by comparison. Haye, 30, landed a few isolated right hands, the occasional jab, and some rabbit punches—the sum total of a non-effort nobody but his cornerman, apparently, could be proud of at the final bell.
Except for a little more posing than usual, Klitschko, now 56-3 (49), fought with the same measured style as always. And, like always, Emanuel Steward unsuccessfully exhorted his fighter from round to round to go for the kill.
Haye, 25-2 (23), entered the ring to years of accumulating mass hysteria based on a spotty heavyweight record. In 2008, Monte Barrett, ready for a rocking chair even then, shook the “Hayemaker” and dropped him before succumbing to superior firepower in the 5th round. Audley Harrison looked like he entered the ring C.O.D. from a taxidermy shop. As for 38-year-old John Ruiz, the last few years of his FUBAR career were the byproduct of contemporary backroom shenanigans that might have made Reggie & Ronald Kray proud. A dull, nip-and-tuck affair with the boxing equivalent of the Cardiff Giant, Nicolay Valuev, earned Haye his WBX whangdoodle, but was an inconclusive eyesore. This curious run procured Haye the kind of reputation boxing specializes in: an unearned one.
Somehow, Haye raised the parochial hopes of the United Kingdom merely by being loud, loutish, and lowbrow. Class and sportsmanship seem to be light years from his reach, and the notion that this insufferable boor would breathe life into boxing was, in itself, offensive.
Joe Louis never had to act up before a fight. Neither did Jack Dempsey, arguably the greatest draw in the history of boxing. Sugar Ray Robinson confronted George Costner for his incessant barking, telling Costner that he, Robinson, sold tickets by praising opponents. Robinson knocked Costner out twice in his career—both times in the first round. Of course, there was Muhammad Ali, but he, as one of the biggest sporting figures of the last 50 years, was sui generis. Costner, by the way, was blind in one eye when he won some of his biggest bouts.
Why British fans go for this kind of vulgar behavior is inexplicable. It is one thing for Naseem Hamed—Patron Saint of U.K. braggarts—to flatten good featherweights with either hand, but it is something else altogether for the likes of James DeGale and Haye to bark beyond the ropes and mewl in between them.
Hellion outside of the ring and hapless inside of it, Haye simply fought to hear the final bell, a trait shared by many of the Klitschko opponents Haye had insulted prior to the fight. Haye might not be fat and out of shape, but he, too, appeared interested in just a payday.
Later, Haye claimed that he broke his toe in training and made sure to remove his shoe in the ring for inspection. Larry Holmes entered his bout with Ken Norton with a torn biceps in 1978, and Buddy McGirt answered the opening bell against Pernell Whitaker in 1993 with a torn rotator cuff. Both men tried their hardest to win against Hall of Fame opposition. More recently, Arthur Abraham fought for several rounds with a broken jaw against murderous puncher Edison Miranda. Hell, amputee Craig Bodzianowski challenged for a cruiserweight title without a foot at all. Bodzianowski wore a prosthesis against Robert Daniels in 1990, and tried his best from start to finish.
Too bad the same cannot be said for Haye.