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Can the Hayemaker Revitalize The Heavyweight Division?

Sports WriterCorrespondent IApril 3, 2010

LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 14:  (L-R) Promoter Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions and WBA heavyweight champion David Haye of England address the media at China Grill inside Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino on November 14, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Haye became the champion after defeating Nikolai Valuev of Russia in Nuremberg, Germany on November 7, 2009.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Could David Haye be the man to end Britain's long, long weight for a legitimate homegrown heavyweight champion? Haye is already the WBA Heavyweight Champion, courtesy of a majority decision points win over Russian giant Nikolai Valuev last November.

However, Haye still has a few fights to go before he can be considered a legitimate heavyweight champion. The sheer quantity of alphabet titles available within boxing means that being a world champion is not the claim to fame it once was.

Valuev was coming off a less than convincing majority decision to 46-year-old Evander Holyfield prior to the fight with Haye. The heavyweight division has been in disarray for a number of years, but even given the dearth of credible opponents available, Valuev's inability to convincingly defeat a man at least 10 years past his prime was less than impressive.

Ruiz is almost 10 years younger than Holyfield, but the trilogy of fights that took place between the two probably marked the peak of both men's career. The final fight of the three took place in December 2001 and ended in a draw, meaning that honours were even over the course of the three fights, Ruiz having won the first by decision, Holyfield the second.

The fact that either boxer's name is still being mentioned in connection with the heavyweight title picture is as much a reflection on the lack of new talent emerging in the division as it is on the longevity of these two fighters.

There is a paucity of new talent in what is traditionally the most prestigious of all boxing's weight classes, and David Haye's emergence as a genuine title contender is a development which will be welcomed well beyond the shores of his native England.

However, if Haye is to cement his status as a heavyweight champion and follow in the footsteps of compatriots Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis, then the likes of Valuev and Ruiz will prove merely the stepping stones on his route to the Klitschko brothers.

Wladimir holds the IBF and WBO versions of the belt, a resurgent Vitali the prestigious WBO strap. The Ukranian brothers have made it clear that they will not, under any circumstances, fight one another. The heavyweight division is crying out for a unified, undisputed champion, but the Klitschko brothers understandable reluctance to face one another makes Haye the only realistic contender for the crown last worn by compatriot Lennox Lewis in 2009.

Victory against Ruiz, who has not headlined a major show since losing to Valuev in 2005, is an absolute necessity for Haye.

Should he win, the obvious move, from both a promotional and financial point of view, would be for Haye to fight Wladimir Klitschko, potentially at Wembley Stadium. Should Haye emerge victorious from this fight, it would set up the fascinating prospect of a grudge match with Vitali Klitschko, widely regarded as being the more accomplished of the two brothers.

British boxing is enjoying something of a renaissance with Kevin Mitchell about to face Michael Katsidis at Upton Park and Amir Khan all set to go against Pauli Malignaggi at Madison Square Garden. A Haye vs. Klitschko fight would top all of these and would be the biggest heavyweight bout since Lennox Lewis sliced Vitali Klitschko open en route to a sixth round stoppage in 2003.

A fight between 38-year-old Ruiz and either Klitschko is also a possibility should he win but would not have nearly the same box office appeal. British fight fans will be hoping "The Hayemaker" can hand Ruiz the ninth loss of his career in Manchester tonight because if he does, Wembley awaits.

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