We were subjected to weeks of trash talking — an unrelenting barrage of insulting words that trickled from the tongue of David Haye as he sought to get under the skin of his opponent, Nikolai Valuev.
It was billed as ‘David versus Goliath’. The preamble to the main event added extra spice to an already high octane atmosphere in Nuremberg.
The weigh in on Friday displayed the true enormity of the task facing Haye if he was to snatch Valuev’s WBA heavyweight title. It appeared a mismatch.
The reigning world champion trudged onto the scales in a cumbersome manner. He towered over Haye, with the difference between the pair stretching to nine inches.
The former cruiserweight world champion had been the strong favourite when the clash was originally announced, but in the past few weeks, there was heaving backing for Valuev, with the bookmakers virtually unable to pick a firm favourite as the pair stepped into the ring.
The UK contingent in the Nuremberg arena belted out a rousing rendition of “God save our Queen” which was retorted with a more placid delivery of the Russian national anthem.
Then it was the moment the world had been waiting for: “Ladies and gentlemen, mein damen and mein herren… Let’s get ready to rumble!”
It wasn’t a blockbuster fight.
But for those willing David Haye to victory, it was an accomplished win. Haye was content to land the odd flurry of combinations on the furrowed brow of Valuev but made little impact on his giant frame.
In the first few rounds Valuev looked perplexed as he was left punching air with the agility of his British opponent defying his laboured jabs.
As the rounds passed by, Valuev slowly began to grow into the fight. The intimidating seven foot giant hunted Haye around the ring but struggled to land many punches on the swift ‘Hayemaker’.
For those who had paid to have the ‘David and Goliath’ clash in their living rooms, it may have proven to be a poorly spent £20, but for those obsessed by the tactics and strategies of both athletes it was worth the viewing fee.
Ultimately Haye boxed patiently and intelligently.
He almost felled the titanic frame of Valuev in the 12th round. A series of blows to the Russian’s face resulted in a stumbling moment of weakness. But Valuev rapidly planted his large frame on the canvas and normality returned as the Russian successfully steadied himself.
The judges were divided.
One scored it at 114-114 while the other two favoured Haye going with 116-112. It sparked jubilant celebrations from the Haye camp.
It wasn’t long before Haye had the WBA heavyweight belt held aloft. The ‘beast from the east’ could only look on as Haye flaunted his new title.
The newly-crowned World Champion revealed in an interview after the fight that he had seriously injured his right hand in the “second or third round” and had to revert to a different game plan as a consequence of the unforeseen set back.
“I’m pretty sure it’s broken but it’s a small price to pay for being the heavyweight champion of the world. His head is solid, the hardest thing I’ve ever hit. It’s like hitting a solid brick wall.”
It makes the manner of his victory even more inspiring.
Haye will now face Puerto Rican John Ruiz as the giant slayer looks to cement his name in heavyweight boxing history and establish himself as the undisputed best in the division.