By Paul Mason
This Saturday, Bermondsey’s former WBA Heavyweight Champion, and former WBC, WBA and WBO Cruiserweight Champion, David Haye attempts redemption for his March 2017 loss to bitter rival, Tony Bellew. Haye is now firmly drinking in the last chance saloon as he bids for World Title glory in the twilight of his career.
Losing again to the Evertonian would leave Haye’s career in tatters, and his legacy surely further tarnished. Retirement would then surely be the only logical next step. Haye has suffered three career defeats, and excuses have arisen from each of them, so rest assured there is no room for error in the Capital.
Haye’s first career loss was back in September 2004, to the wily old Mancunian fox, Carl “The Cat” Thompson. Thompson was 40 years old at the time of the fight, and a former WBO Cruiserweight Champion. Haye was unbeaten in his first ten fights, and the meeting with Thompson was seen as a changing of the guard type fight, where youth would triumph over experience. Haye started like an express train in the opening rounds, teeing off on Thompson at will. But Thompson was unfazed and shrewd enough to make Haye burn himself out. Like a petrol tank rapidly going to the redline, Haye ran out of gas in the fifth round and was stopped with his corner throwing the towel in.
The excuse for the defeat at the Wembley Arena was that he had maybe been brought on too much too soon, he wasn’t ready for a 12 round tilt at Thompson’s IBO Cruiserweight Title, and would need to rebuild. Rebuild he did, capturing the European Title at Cruiserweight, before five fights later, dethroning WBA and WBC Champion, Jean Marc Mormeck in Paris. He next stopped Enzo Maccarinelli in two rounds to pick up the WBO belt.
After a debut at Heavyweight, defeating Monte Barrett in five rounds, he travelled to Germany to take on the 7 foot plus WBA Heavyweight Champion, Nikolai Valuev. Haye boxed to perfection and outpointed the Russian giant to become a two-weight World Champion. Haye would go on to defend the belt twice, stopping both John Ruiz (TKO9) and the massively overawed Audley Harrison (TKO3)
Haye’s next loss would occur in Hamburg, Germany in July 2011. Heavyweight great, Wladimir Klitschko would be the opposition, the WBA (Super) IBF and WBO World Heavyweight Titles would be the prize. Haye was thoroughly outclassed throughout the contest by the underrated Klitschko and suffered a wide points defeat. In a largely forgettable contest, Haye made the post-fight press conference the most memorable event when exclaiming that a broken little toe was the chief reason for defeat. This didn’t go down well with the fight fraternity.
Haye would return to the ring in a grudge match, stopping Dereck Chisora in five rounds at Upton Park in May 2012. Haye was forced to pull out of contests with Manuel Charr in February 2013, and Tyson Fury in September 2013 due to injury. He also cancelled on Fury a second time ahead of a February 2014 bout due to shoulder surgery. After a three and a half year hiatus from the sport due to injury, Haye made a comeback in January 2016 at the O2 Arena. Stopping the hapless and hopeless Mark de Mori inside a round. If that was forgivable due to the length of time he had been away from the sport, four months later he returned to the same venue to demolish the terrible Arnold Gjergjaj in two grossly one-sided rounds. These two wins drew the ire of Tony Bellew, who had seen enough to call Haye out.
And so, the O2 Arena, London was the setting for Haye’s last and most recent setback. Tony Bellew came into the fight as a heavy underdog but as a former Light Heavyweight World Title contender and WBC Cruiserweight Champion. He’d never before contested a professional bout as a Heavyweight. After the first five rounds, where Haye was arguably just about ahead, he then suffered a painful rupture of his Achilles. He bravely fought on but was, for the most part, a sitting duck, eventually being halted in eleven rounds by the relentless Bellew.
Since this setback, Haye has parted ways with the trainer for his last three fights, Shane McGuigan. He has now linked up with Ismael Salas, who he hopes will bring back the David Haye of old. This is a massive ask at this stage in his career. I feel if Haye can stay injury free in this one, I believe he can gain revenge and stop Bellew late on in the contest. He has always been an explosive puncher and needs to make Bellew respect his power this time around.
The question will then be where he goes from there, as surely he would then only be interested in World Title fights. With Anthony Joshua holding three out of four available belts, and Deontay Wilder holding the WBC version, it’s hard to see whether Haye could engineer a fight with either man. One thing is for sure, there will be no room for excuses, or no comebacks if Haye should be unsuccessful this weekend.