With his win over Russian behemoth Nikolay Valuev, David Haye can finally revitalise a flagging heavyweight division, writes Richard Chambers
In the wake of his remarkable triumph over Nikolay Valuev, new WBA heavyweight champion David Haye will be eyeing the future with more than a degree of enthusiasm.
The majority decision has changed the heavyweight division, marking the coming to the fore of a man with the energy and drive to become the undisputed world champion.
The showdown with Valuev – a man seven stone heavier and eleven inches taller than Haye – was appropriately billed as “David vs Goliath”. The encounter with such an imposing figure as Valuev was the perfect platform to launch Haye to the forefront of the boxing world.
A master of promotion, the “Hayemaker” used every available opportunity to antagonise his opponent. The underdog tag did not unsettle Haye, who presented a wonderful exhibition of the sweet science. Fighting with a broken right hand, earned in the second round, Haye displayed a tactical nous that his followers would not have been familiar with.
The South Londoner engaged in a defensive effort, avoiding the massive fists of the Russian with deft grace before unleashing flurries late in each round. One such volley at the finale rocked the Russian, leaving him swaying uneasily in an almost comedic style. If not for the bell, Valuev could well have befallen a knockout, an unthinkable outcome before the fight.
Becoming world champion is the realisation of a lifelong dream for Haye, one that has taken him through a successful amateur career and across weight divisions. Haye turned professional in 2002 as a cruiserweight, and armed with a combination of agility and power, quickly dispatched several talented boxers such as ‘King’ Arthur Williams and Lolenga Mock.
An unsuccessful IBO title fight against veteran Carl Thompson handed Haye the only defeat of his career to date, but Haye rebounded with a series of quick victories before capturing the World Cruiserweight Championship in 2007.
Before making the long-anticipated move to heavyweight, Haye defended his title against Wales’ Enzo Maccarinelli with a devastating display, stopping Maccarinelli in the second round. “The Hayemaker” was born.
With four heavyweight belts tied up in the hands of the Klitschko brothers, who refuse to fight each other, the destiny of the heavyweight division is now in Haye’s hands. He will command gargantuan fees for his bouts, and his emergence will revitalise a tired division, recapturing the showmanship of eras past. Richard Schaeffer of Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions has predicted the end of the domination by Eastern bloc fighters, eulogising that “of all there is only one who is number one in terms of ability and charisma: David Haye.”
Where does Haye go after this? American John Ruiz is guaranteed a mandatory challenge to Haye’s title. Haye is thought to be in favour of holding any fight with Ruiz in London, with Greenwich’s O2 Arena the probable venue.
A money-spinning domestic title defence against former Olympic champion Audley Harrison has also been mentioned, but the ultimate objective must be the status of undisputed champion, a status that can only be achieved by defeating both of the towering, but ageing, Klitschkos.
Whoever the opponent, the presence of the twenty-nine year old will undoubtedly draw crowds and box-office revenue. Haye himself has promised to retire by age 31. Whatever the conclusion, the next two years will rank amongst the most captivating in recent boxing history. He is, as Schaeffer put it, “the heavyweight we have been waiting for.”