|Photo: AP/Frank Augstein|
Embarrassment has been plentiful among the big men of boxing for quite a while now. But whether the shame should stem from being 30 lbs. heavier than necessary and sadly out of shape, or undeservedly maneuvered into a favorable ranking or position far outside the proper pay grade, varied from one miserable pug to another.
Many have been both undeserving and out of shape.
More importantly, the dearth of quality fighters and worthy challengers isn't any one person's fault, but it's an issue that's plagued the division for far too long.
Unfortunately Wladimir Klitschko's unanimous decision victory over former unified cruiserweight champion David Haye on HBO Saturday provided no deviation from the usual recipe of letdown with a side order of disappointment.
At this stage heavyweight fights should automatically come with antacid tablets upon being signed.
The gregarious Haye, now 25-2 (23 KO), managed to convince expert and novice alike that he would easily time and bludgeon the taller Wladimir early on, effectively ushering in a brand new heavyweight era safe from the tyrannical rule of the Brothers Klitschko.
In reality, Haye actually did almost the exact opposite.
Klitschko, 56-3 (49 KO), began somewhat surprisingly by moving forward as the opening bell rang. Tellingly, Haye never seemed to find a consistent groove from that point forward.
Behind a snapping jab and the threat of a right hand, Klitschko moved forward, causing Haye to skip backwards while employing constant head movement. Every so often Haye would telegraph a right hand or leap in with a hook, and a couple even landed. Wladimir didn't seem impressed, however, and resumed his role as the aggressor by default.
It almost seemed as if Haye might be finally letting everyone in on the years-long joke as he caught Wlad with a right hand that forced him to hold on, but also seemed to blunt his own momentum by repeatedly going to the canvas as a result of his off-balance lunging (and a little help from Klitschko's forearm), then complaining to referee Genaro Rodriguez.
More striking was the fact that Wlad wasn't clinching much, but fighting back from getting tagged and going back to work.
By the middle rounds, it was apparent that Haye was not being clever or sneaky, but having serious trouble with Wladimir's range and jab, and serious second thoughts about wading in to land something big.
The halfhearted attacks from Haye seemed to get less effective as rounds passed by and Wlad went about his business with the body language of a fighter anxious to end the weary bout. But Haye gave Wlad little to work with in the way of openings, preferring to slip-slide away and taunt, even attempting to win by disqualification more than once by exaggerating the effects of Klitschko's cuffing shots and collapsing to the canvas; that tactic earned a point deduction for the Ukrainian champ in the 7th round.
Referee Rodriguez was having none of Haye's shenanigans though, warning Haye for falling down before taking a point and calling a knockdown in the 10th - essentially a makeup call for being suckered by Haye earlier.
Not until the 12th round did Haye put forth an honest effort, mauling forward between a few well-timed, if not slightly wild right hands. He probably won the round, despite being out-landed and having thrown more than 30 punches in a round for only the first time in the fight.
Alas, the last minute watered-down blitzkrieg wasn't nearly enough to take two belts from a larger, better and more effective man on a rainy night in Hamburg, Germany.
Wladimir Klitschko retained his title with scores of 118-108, 117-109 and 116-110, all his way.
To compound the weak showing from Haye, the Londoner was shoeless by the time Larry Merchant could reach him for an interview in the ring and insisted on making his broken toe the subject of every response.
Needless to say, within two days fans and press have gone from beating the drums for this matchup, to beating a dead horse over just how lame it was.
While the majority of the pointing, laughing and ALL CAPS blogging has been directed specifically at Haye, the clear and undisputed heavyweight champion Klitschko shouldn't escape blame.
Wlad, who notched his 14th straight win, did so in the same overly-cautious and cerebral manner that has kept him from becoming a welcome attraction. Klitschko had Haye tired and trapped against the ropes numerous times in the latter portion of the fight, yet chose to control the distance (and most of Haye's attempted counters) with a jab that was more probing than punishing. Wlad looked more comfortable than he has in years, but absent was the offensive fluidity that saw him to his first HBO headliners.
That said, round after round David Haye dug himself a hole that he didn't appear to have any intention of climbing his way out of, then made an excuse that, no matter how legitimate, just sounded bush league at best.
His most costly mistake may wind up being the trash-talking escapades pointed towards both Klitschko brothers, both of whom now sound eager to leave the younger man to either retire in October as promised, or rebuild.
It is possible that David Haye wound up doing more for boxing than he's being given credit for though, as the heavyweight division can go right back to the state of irrelevancy it lived in before the latest charade.
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