By Peter Silkov
News of David Haye’s return to the ring this summer will have the boxing fan in two states of mind. The Bermondsey man splits opinion, between those who like his glitzy, arrogant persona and those who find his methods of self-publicity, boorish in the extreme. In many ways, Haye is an example of all that is wrong with modern boxing. After ten years as a professional, Haye has fought just twenty-eight bouts. When he steps into the ring again in early July it will only be the second time in two years. There is no doubt that Haye is a talented fighter, with speed, good technique and a dangerous punch. This only serves to heighten the disappointment that so much of his career has turned out to be style over substance.
The Hayemaker has delivered some genuinely exciting performances, such as his wins over Jean Marc Mormeck for the Cruiserweight World title and his World Heavyweight title wins over Nikolay Valuev, and John Ruiz, interspersed with unsatisfying mismatches and prolonged bouts of inactivity.
Since he moved up to heavyweight, Haye has relied more and more on outrageous publicity, rather than punching in the ring, to keep his name in the headlines. Such a strategy worked for a while and saw him propelled quickly into a big money showdown with Wladimir Klitschko for the Ukraininan’s Heavyweight titles. However, Haye’s behaviour began to backfire upon him in the wake of his poor performance against Klitschko (which the Hayemaker blamed upon a broken toe.) After this fight he found himself criticized for both his performance in the ring and his distasteful behaviour in the fight’s build up. Haye has fought just once since the Klitschko debacle. His controversial showdown last summer with fellow Brit, Dereck Chisora, which began in a post-fight press conference brawl and ended in an open air money spinner in London’s Upton Park stadium. In a fight disowned by the British Boxing Board of Control. Haye won the contest, but his reputation again took a battering, as he was blamed by many for bringing boxing into disrepute.
After dispatching Chisora, the Haymaker has tried desperately to entice Wladimir’s brother, Vitali, into a showdown for Vitali’s WBC World title, with a mixture of taunts, threats to retire and appearances on reality TV. Just as Haye’s publicity machine had opened doors for him earlier in his career, now it seems to work against him as much as anything. Certainly the Klitschko’s seem to have had their fill of dealing with David Haye. After seeing all his efforts to talk his way into a big money fight with Vitali being increasingly ignored, plus his attempts to forge a music and film career come to nothing, Haye has been forced to go back to what he once did best, fighting in the ring. With July 6 the preferred date, Haye is looking for a open air fight against a big name which will promote him up the rankings and either force a fight with Vitali or gain him a shot at the vacant title should Vitali decide to retire.
High on Haye’s hit list of possible opponents is Tyson Fury, who is preparing for an eliminator fight with Steve Cunningham on April 20th in New York. Should Fury win against Cunningham, he would have both the public recognition and the high contender ranking, to make him a profitable opponent for Haye. Indeed a Haye vs. Fury match has the potential to be as divisive and explosive as his fight with Chisora, as Fury is himself a loud and often controversial figure. Another possible opponent for Haye could be Tony Thompson, who recently KO’d the previously unbeaten British champion David Price. A win over Thompson would certainly help Haye re-establish himself on the world scene, however such a fight would not generate as much interest and money as a clash with a fellow British contender.
The options for Tyson Fury will be many, if he is able to overcome Steve Cunningham on April 20th. It could be said that Haye needs Fury, more than Fury needs Haye, and Tyson may decide to take on either Tony Thompson, or the unbeaten Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, as preferred options towards a title shot, rather than David Haye. It is certainly an interesting time in the heavyweight division at the moment, with the Klitschkos both getting older and Vitali verging on retirement in order to focus on politics. Change is in the air and the chances are that there will be at least one British heavyweight involved in the mix as these changes slowly come to pass.