Earlier this year Ken Buchanan, the great Scottish ex WBC lightweight champion, made press headlines, when he stated a desire to return to the ring at the age of 63.
He gave his reasoning as it being the only way left in his life that he could make any money.
The story plucked at the heart-strings of those who remembered him in his days of glory and became part of the catalogue of sad boxing tales amongst the thousands of broken and financially ruined ex-fighters.
Now this might appear to be something of a tangent in an article headlined as introducing David Haye, the heavyweight challenger to Nicolai Valuevs’ WBC crown in Nuremburg, Germany on Saturday night but I believe that the two stories are intimately connected, and in a way, go to explain the way Haye has gone about publicising both this fight and his previously cancelled fight against Vitali Klitschko.
In the build-up to this fight, and indeed the cancelled bout, Haye has been vilified for his sensationalist publicity stunts. He was pictured holding the severed heads of the Klitschko brothers in a magazine shoot and this time he has managed to knock the head off a cardboard cut out of the giant Valuev at a press conference.
He has also made disparaging remarks across the spectrum about his current opponents’ physical features, his hairiness, his gigantism (as an illness) and so on.
In America the popular term for Hayes’ antics is smack talk or talking smack. There isn’t a clear English equivalent for this phrase, though in Hayes’ south east London birthplace in Bermondsey they might say he was “digging them out” or perhaps the more modern “mugging them off”, but neither phrase is completely appropriate because what Haye is solely doing is Promoting the Fight.
And here we go back to Ken Buchanan and the long list of retired fighters who felt they never earned enough money out of the fight game, out of the hard toil and sweat of their efforts.
Instead others became rich. Fight promoters taking their heavy cuts, corruption and political manoeuvring in the governing bodies, boxers never getting the big fights their efforts deserved, till eventually the disillusioned boxing public recognised this and the sport declined.
However, in recent years there has been a new trend. Top boxers self-promoting their own bouts; Golden Boy with Oscar De la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather; Joe Calzaghe vs Roy Jones Jr.
David Haye is part of this new movement. He has pulled away from the traditional fight promoters, and in tandem with his eloquent trainer, Adam Booth, has set up his own promotional company; Hayemaker. Their desired goal: boxers keeping more of the money that their sweat, their toil, deserves.
It’s in light of this that Haye’s fight publicising activity should be viewed. The posters may say David v Goliath, but it has more of an air of comic book about it than dark, biblical myth.
Hayes' taunting is tongue in cheek, we can dismiss the severed heads. This isn’t Mike Tyson talking death and malicious harm, in a way that you believed him. It isn’t Riddick Bowe throwing sucker punches at press conferences, nor Bernard Hopkins playing the race card, that isn’t the style of the man.
David Haye is sociable, charming, eloquent and funny, yet not above poking fun at himself, as well as others. A very different type of man to the ruling pan-Russian oligarchs of the heavyweight division.
Valuev, Chaguev, the Klitschko brothers appear decent men, good men, family men, and in the case of the Klitschko’s; politically aware, well educated, even enlightened social reformers. All of which are commendable, but in a promotional sense they have been fundamentally boring. Like the division itself.
The heavyweight division, the blue-ribbon division of boxing, has for some time, had a tired, moribund air to it. The Klitschko brothers dominate in a predictable fashion overwhelming underwhelming opposition with a combination of superior physical conditioning and accurate straight punching.
There has been no one to truly challenge them. For various socio-economic reasons the rich mother-lode of African-American big men has run dry. But the question remains. Should it be like that?
Vitali Klitschko is 38, Valuev 36, Wladimir Klitschko 34. In a healthy division you would suspect that these men should be past their prime. Retired or ready to retire.
And now along comes David Haye, moving up from the cruiserweight ranks. At 29 he stands at the peak of his physical powers. At six foot three and weighing around 16 stone, he is about the height and weight of Muhammed Ali in his prime. The size and weight of a true heavyweight champion?
Haye stands poised to tear down the walls of the Russian giants and restore the division to its rightful pre-eminence. All along he has talked the talk, now all that stands before him is a seven foot Russian and a lingering suspicion of "chinniness." The fun and games are over, come Saturday in Nuremburg it’s time to walk the walk…
For those interested I've posted a favourite link as an insight to the David Haye personality.
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