In one corner there stood a tall heavyweight champion who had a long reign at the top but, due to a safety first style, did not have strong fan support. In the other corner was a shorter challenger with knockout power who had vowed to walk through fire and violently take the title. A raucous crowd loudly cheered for the challenger to make good on his promises.
This was the scene moments before the start of July 2 bout between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye. It was also the scene before the 2000 match between Lennox Lewis and David Tua.
The similarities between the lead up to the two fights are many in number.
Both Tua and Haye were promised title shots years before they got them, feasted on lesser fighters in the interim and entered the ring with great fanfare. Once in the ring they stared into the eyes of a jab-first boxer trained by Emanuel Steward.
The specifics of the actual matches have even more in common. For the first few rounds the challenger seemed to be narrowing the distance with big shots that only nearly missed.
In the middle of the bout the champion eased into a groove, jabbing enough to win rounds and landing enough rights to keep the opponent, suddenly timid in the realization of the skill and power he was facing, honest.
The last round of both fights had the challenger throwing one last useless haymaker and losing by a wide decision.
After the fight Tua cited a rib injury after claiming that he hated making excuses. Haye showed off a broken pinky toe after making the same claim.
Both started their title bouts as the championed savior of boxing. Tua was going to be the second coming of Jack Dempsey and the most devastating puncher since Mike Tyson. David Haye was to be the next Muhammad Ali and to have his name placed alongside Lennox Lewis as the best British boxer of all time.
Now both are relegated to boxing history footnotes. They are notches on the belts of Hall of Fame careers. Haye wanted to be great but now he is simply the next Tua.
Die hard fans of either man may claim that their fighter had the better career. Tua beat better heavyweight opposition on his way to fight Lewis but Haye had a good cruiserweight career and obtained a heavyweight belt.
These are semantics that likely cancel one another out.
In the end both Tua and Haye have arrived at the same place. They are the "what if" style of contender. Both had the power to damage a superior champion with a weak chin but both lacked strategy and, most damningly, the will to take the chances to make it happen.
Tua never earned a second shot at Lewis. It is likely that neither will Haye as he would have to obtain and more improbably win a fight against Vitali Klitschko, the older brother of Wladimir Klitschko, in order to secure a rematch.
The Klitschko brothers, who endured an endless barrage of taunts leading up to the fight, appear done with Haye.
Hopefully this is where the similarities end.
Tua spent the next few years after his loss to Lewis in contract disputes. He is currently out of money and well past his prime as he desperately tries to salvage what is left of a career that seemed to hold so much potential.
Haye for his part says he plans to retire by his birthday this October.
Hopefully he has taken better care of his money and is able to continue to earn money as a British boxing celebrity. Boxing already has enough men who continue to fight long after their skills have diminished.
To say that Haye has become another Tua is not an insult or to be considered all that bad. It means that both showed great promise, received a rare opportunity to become the lineal heavyweight champion, and had tremendous careers at the top of a very difficult sport. Few boxers are able to make such claims.
In the end Haye will have ultimately had a successful boxing career. He will not, however, be leaving the legacy he had hoped to leave.
Haye wanted to be greater than his vanquisher Klitschko or his countryman Lewis but instead he is another Tua and everything that comes with that moniker.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!