by Fox Doucette
It is possible to be so perfect that one becomes bothersome to watch or listen to. A piece of music with not a single note out of place, deliberate in pacing and timing and choice of crescendo can, despite its technical mastery, nonetheless leave the listener wishing for something with a bit more depth even in its imperfections. It is Classical vs. Romantic, Mozart vs. Johann Strauss…or Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye.
Haye is pure 19th century opulence in this metaphor, brash and creative and authorial in his trash talk and big words. Stylistically, Haye fights like an old-time slugger, left hand slung low to bring jabs up, punches coming straight and wide in equal measure, pouncing like a cat against bigger fighters. Against Audley Harrison, Haye leapt in to catch a man who had three inches in height, 43 pounds in weight, and eight inches in reach on him. And when the time came to strike the finishing blows, they were wild shots that reinforced Haye’s nickname as “The Hayemaker”.
On the other side, there is Wladimir Klitschko, whose punches are orchestrated more like Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro overture than the Laughing Aria from Die Fledermaus. Every jab, every straight right hand, and even every clinch has a technical precision to it, and every opponent since the Sam Peter fight in 2005 has gone the same way, with Wlad providing a clinic that left open only the question of whether the opponent would survive the distance or succumb to the relentless assault before the final bell rang.
What jumps out is just how different Klitschko has been since that career-defining show of heart against Peter. Where before Wlad would use his power and gain early-round stoppages at the risk of taking one on the chin, he now uses his technical mastery as his greatest offensive weapon. The fight against Ruslan Chagaev that handed Wlad the Ring Magazine belt in 2009 was as simple and efficient as the melody for Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, a two-note symphony of jabs and straight rights that made Chagaev quickly become complicit in his own ninth-round demise.
The CompuBox statistics say a lot about Klitschko’s modus operandi. Thrown and landed, the jabs tend to outnumber the power shots by at least three to one in a typical post-2006 Klitschko fight. From a trainer’s point of view, this is exactly what you want to see from a taller, stronger fighter; an assault on the outside, Wlad using his 81-inch reach and body positioning to best possible effect. From a fan’s point of view, however, Wlad, like Mozart, is appreciated more than he is truly enjoyed. There is no fire in what “Dr. Steelhammer” does with his fists, only the same cold steel to the face you’d expect from getting smacked with an Enswell.
So what does this mean for David Haye? It means that he will have to do something he has never done effectively in his career. Haye will have to bait Klitschko into believing that he is going to lunge in and attempt a barrage on the inside, then slip and give an angle after Wlad tries to either throw a jab or reach for a clinch. Staying low, using his shorter stature to work the body, and otherwise trying to match technical perfection with a chess counter while simultaneously suppressing the urge to avoid getting hit, these are Haye’s keys to victory.
Unfortunately, for Haye’s style this makes about as much sense as slipping the sheet music for Take Me Out to the Ballgame into an operatic score and fencing with the conductor like Harpo Marx. As we saw in the Harrison fight, Haye has way too much respect for the power of a bigger fighter even when that fighter is standing stationary with his guard up and inviting himself to be smothered by a power assault. Wladimir Klitschko will do no such thing during their matchup Saturday night. Haye will have to find a way around the relentless jabs and straight rights and as soon as he gets caught cleanly with one in the first or second round he will be just as compliant as was Chagaev in 2009 and as were all of Wlad’s other opponents since 2006.
Predictions? Simple. This will, despite all the buildup and all the trash talking and all the Shakespearean sound and fury, be less of a Magic Flute for Haye and more of a Requiem as the great technical master adds yet another beauty-in-brutality piece to his oeuvre. When it is all said and done, from the overture to the ring announcer providing the “fat lady sings” moment announcing the ninth-round knockout to the crowd, Heavyweight Symphony, Op. 59 will be the latest in the career of a man who does with his fists what the great composer of the Enlightenment did with a sheet music score. And David Haye will have an Enlightenment of his own about what happens when you bite off more than you can chew with trash talk.
And if Haye pulls a Marx Brothers act and disrupts a night at the opera? Well, it won’t be the first time a boxing pundit has been wrong. But I wouldn’t bet my house on it.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and arguments over whether Johann Strauss is far more enjoyable than Mozart can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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