Even those far beyond boxing’s jurisdiction are aware of the most common mantra in the sport of prize-fighting—a good big’un beats a good little’un.
Casual fans of the sport as well as the hardcore fighting faithful were reminded of this in no uncertain terms on Saturday night, as one-half of the modern era’s most dominant heavyweights produced arguably a career-best performance to finally secure all the world title belts for the seemingly unstoppable Klitschko dynasty.
Haye, who appeared desperate to reveal his post-fight revelation of a broken toe, can complain of restricted movement all he wants (judging by the number of times he trawled out the excuse in his post-fight interviews, he will do so quite a lot).
The Brit was, unfortunately, defeated by simple human anatomy. Genetics have given the Klitschko brothers a seemingly unassailable advantage in the art of pugilism, and now that the pair have perfected the science of long-range fighting there seems little hope for an increasingly stagnant heavyweight division that craves a new hero.
David Haye’s pre-fight talk had been good. He acted with the swagger of a man who genuinely believed he had the beating of his monstrous Eastern European opponent, and even boxing’s most educated scholars began to think that Haye’s hand-speed and eel-like agility would be enough to topple the giant Klitschko.
The big Ukrainian was chinny, they said. Been put down before, didn’t have the bottle for the fight, looked nervy at the weigh-in.
Yet in the cold, hard world of facts, Wladimir Klitschko, the supposedly inferior sibling, has a boxing resume that ranks among the best of all time.
Olympic gold medallist in 1996. A veteran of 18 world title fights during a 10-year career as world champion in boxing’s most unforgiving division.
It is irrelevant how poor the standard of competition is—anyone with credentials like that deserves respect, regardless of how monotonous and predictable their style may be.
It was certainly too much for Haye to decipher. After a shambolic set of ring entrances, with Haye’s refusal to arrive on cue punished by a bumpy escort through a raucous crowd, the start of the fight actually made for intriguing viewing.
Haye came out like a jitterbug, feinting and bobbing relentlessly in an effort to goad Wladimir into letting his hands go.
It worked, to a point. The Englishman was certainly the busier in the fight’s opening rounds and actually rocked the man-mountain in Round 3 to convince the crowd that his pre-fight bravado could be backed up with some serious in-ring consequence.
Yet this was the pinnacle of Haye’s performance. Conventional wisdom suggested that a longer fight played directly into Klitschko’s gargantuan hands, and as Haye’s ferocious pace eventually began to drop, "Dr Steelhammer" soon resumed his often-practised surgery of pain.
He effortlessly turned on the autopilot, peppering Haye with his ramrod jab and throwing occasional hooks and crosses to remind the brash Londoner of the disastrous outcome that awaited him if he strayed too close.
Haye, whose attacks became increasingly desperate, enjoyed some success in the seventh and 12th rounds through luck rather than strategy but spent the majority of proceedings hopelessly out of range, mesmerised by the precision and frequency of the best jab in world boxing.
The worrying thing is, Haye is almost certainly the top pretender to the Klitschko’s place at the head of the heavyweight table.
He had a genuinely outstanding career as a cruiserweight and had previously dealt with all the tasks asked of him as a heavyweight with an ease and confidence that suggested he was the real deal.
Plus, if you put him in the ring tomorrow with the latest batch of heavyweight contenders, such as Tomasz Adamek, Alexander Povetkin and Robert Helenius, then Haye would be hot favourite to add their names to his already impressive lost of stoppage victims.
But Haye is now competing in a heavyweight landscape dominated by giants. Gone are the days when George Foreman, standing 6'4" and weighing 220 pounds, would be the biggest man on the heavyweight circuit.
As sports science has evolved and the old Eastern Bloc has made its presence felt in the world of professional boxing, a new breed of super-heavyweight has emerged as the perfect somatotype if you wish to challenge for honours in boxing’s marquee division.
The Klitschkos have a unique and perhaps unbeatable combination of size and technique that is incredibly difficult to master.
Wladimir in particular is no longer the naïve and fragile novice he was when he first burst onto the heavyweight scene in the late 90s.
He has now developed into a master of boxing’s defensive arts, with truly remarkable speed of foot for such a big man combined with an accuracy of punch that ensures every shot he throws forces his opponent to react or risk facing the full force of a potentially catastrophic Klitschko homing missile.
They are a simply outstanding set of siblings, gifted with sublime brilliance both academically and athletically that marks them out as a near-perfect specimen of white man.
Put them in any era of boxing, even in the late 60s to early 70s when the pool of heavyweight talent was at its deepest, and there’s no doubting that the Klitschko brothers have the size and the skill to get to the very top.
For David Haye, for whom humble pie is a must after his atrocious pre-fight antics, there appears to be little in the way of options.
He seems intent on stringently sticking to his planned retirement date of October 13th, which would leave him time for one final homecoming fight to celebrate a career that will be remembered as good, but never great, by Britain’s boxing faithful, but as to whom the opponent for such a fight would be remains to be seen.
The options for the Klitschkos though are perhaps even less plentiful.
This year was supposed to be their toughest to date, but the consummate ease with which either brother has dealt with the challenges of Odlanier Solis and David Haye respectively, two of their most credible opponents in recent memory, makes the talk of dethroning them seem absolutely ludicrous for at least the next couple of years.
The reality is that these extraordinary boxing brothers now possess all five of the major world heavyweight title belts—I wouldn’t put money on them losing any of them anytime soon.
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