This Saturday just gone we saw what should be the final appearance of David Haye in a boxing ring. Taking nothing away from Bellew’s two impressive back to back victories over Haye, but two losses like that mean Haye has no business in the ring anymore, especially at the top table.
Haye enjoyed a successful amateur career, becoming the first British boxer to reach the final of the world amateur boxing championships where he picked up the silver medal. His professional career started in December 2002, but it wasn’t until the following year that I “stumbled” my way into finding out who Haye was. As a boxing nut from a young age, in the early 00s it was quite hard to find boxing to watch if you didn’t have Sky TV. One avenue was via the BBC’s coverage of Audley Harrison’s career, and it was from watching an Audley Harrison show on BBC that I first saw David Haye fight. It was only highlights, but this brash, confident young boxer had just won a fight at the Playboy Mansion! So it obviously stuck out like a bright light in the dark compared to the other highlights they showed that night! And from that point, David Haye had a fan in the form of 16 year old me.
My love affair with Haye continued, whether it was staying up late to watch BBC highlights of his career or finally seeing him on prime time TV winning and defending the European title – if Haye was fighting, I was watching. Of course I can’t ignore his loss to Carl Thompson – he beat the young Haye into submission after Haye had run out of gas. But I feel Haye (and his then young and inexperienced coach Adam Booth) learned a lot from that Thompson loss, lessons that would stand Haye in good stead later on in his career.
Many state that Haye’s career defining fight at Cruiserweight was his 2 round demolition job on then WBO title holder Enzo Maccarinelli, but for me it was the fight before that where Haye went into Jean-Marc Mormeck’s backyard and got off the canvas to stop the then unified WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine champion in top fashion.
After unifying 3 of the 4 big world titles at Cruiserweight Haye set his sights on his “childhood dream” of being the World Heavyweight Champion. Cutting to the chase Haye went straight after the widely recognised Heavyweight number 1 Wladimir Klitschko, gate-crashing the champion’s media visits to call him out and quite crudely getting some graphic t-shirts of him triumphant over both Klitschko brothers, but the two wouldn’t meet straight away. Haye’s other career defining night came surprisingly against Nikolay Valuev – the then WBA Heavyweight champion and much avoided belt holder due to his immense height – Valuev stands at 7ft tall and when he and Haye weighed in for their fight, he outweighed the South-Londoner by 7 stone! Haye again went to his opponents “backyard” (Valuev is Russian but boxed the majority of his career in Germany) and took the champions World title to become Britain’s 7th Heavyweight world champion and our first since Lennox Lewis.
I can’t talk about Haye’s career highs without talking about its lows. After two successful defences of his WBA title against mandatory challenger John Ruiz and somewhat unworthy challenger Audley Harrison, Haye and Wladimir Klitschko would finally meet in the biggest Heavyweight Title fight since Lewis – Tyson. Now Haye’s performance against Klitschko wasn’t the real issue as the great Ukrainian seemed to always make people look bad, it was the excuse that followed. Haye blamed his loss and lacklustre performance on a broken little toe.
Another low would happen before Haye would return to the ring – the infamous “glassing” incident between him and Chisora. The incident would lead to the two fighting in what I wish, in hindsight, was Haye’s last appearance in the ring.
After both Haye and Chisora had been banned by the BBBofC for the “glassing” incident, the two met under Luxembourg boxing licences at West Ham’s Boleyn Ground. Having had just gone 12 rounds with “Dr Ironfist” Vitali Klitschko (a man who ended his career with 45 wins with 42 by KO), Chisora was expected to take Haye to deep waters and test his resolve. But Haye went out and accomplished something no one had done up to that point and KO Chisora in 5 fan friendly rounds (technically it was something no one has done since – Fury’s “KO” win over Chisora was a corner retirement).
Following the Chisora fight three fights fell through; the first with Manuel Charr and two with Tyson Fury all due to Haye injuries. The last being what was thought at the time as being a career ending one; Haye needed reconstructive shoulder surgery and was told his fighting days were over.
Fast forward 3 ½ years and “Haye 2.0” is here. Two wins over fighters who should never have been in the ring with someone of Haye’s calibre led to the first Bellew fight and we all know what happened there. But people were still intrigued by Haye – IF his Achilles hadn’t ruptured would he have beaten Bellew? And this is why we again saw the two square off this Saturday just gone. And we all know what happened there (again).
When Haye announced his return I was happy because it gave me a chance to finally get to see Haye fight in person – something I saw when he fought Mark DeMori. I had tried to get tickets to his fights before and had been unsuccessful or the fights were called off (I had tickets to the Charr fight and both Fury fights). But I wish he’d stayed retired. He’d have finished with a glittering career and on a high with the Chisora KO. But he will now be remembered not for being the first Brit to win world titles at Cruiserweight and Heavyweight or only the second man to unify the Cruiserweight division and then step up and win a version of the Heavyweight title, he will be remembered by a vast majority of fans who were too young (either in age or their support of boxing) to remember “Haye version 1”, as the man who lost to Bellew twice. His career will now finish on a very low low.
Someone said it on a forum on Facebook that if you take away the name, no-one should have bought into a returning Heavyweight who had had reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder. Or one that had ruptured his Achilles and then his bicep forcing a fight to be postponed. We should have known he wouldn’t be the same.
Maybe it was our collective attachment to see that once explosive, magnificent fighter again. The rapid, heavy handed cruiserweight animal was a fighter we were desperate to retain and relive. Maybe it was because of these faded traits that we hoped Haye would prevail at least that one last time. But what we got was an example that all men age, even those who have achieved extraordinary things. What we got is an example that father time beats us all.
This writer’s hope is that when the dust is settled, David Haye isn’t remembered for his ill fated return. But our collective memories return to those glory nights Haye had with Adam Booth. When Haye upset the odds and became the Cruiserweight king or when David beat Goliath.
Hang up the gloves David. Enjoy a career as a pundit and promoter. And thanks for those fond memories.