Looks like a perfect opportunity for David Haye o counter to the ribcage, right? Wladimir Klitschko was off target with plenty of punches in Hamburg, but Haye didn't throw nearly enough to make those misses matter. (Ode Anderson/Getty Images)
David Haye went a long way on Saturday to ensuring he will be the most derided heavyweight challenger since Gerry Cooney.
Cooney is a much-admired figure in the boxing world nowadays, as he has his wits about him and has done much to help struggling ex-fighters through his charitable organization F.I.S.T. And his challenge of Larry Holmes in a huge 1982 superfight seems spirited when you watch it on tape today.
But at the time, the effort seemed extremely insufficient given the tremendous buildup of the Great White Hope. Cooney was a pitiable figure immediately after the stoppage loss, lampooned for his excessive low blows during the fight, and his excuses/apologies afterwards.
He wasn't really vilified per se -a process that has begun in earnest with Haye in the non-British press - because he never talked pre-fight trash like the brash Briton did over the past two years when it came to the subject of Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko..
Haye is worthy of the criticism after a clear decision loss Wladimir in a ballyhooed fight in front of a drenched stadium crowd in Hamburg on Saturday. Haye had the germ of a fight plan for the first few rounds but then disengaged emotionally and physically.
He then really put his foot in his mouth by talking at length about a broken toe that prevented him from committing to hard punches. While he quickly offered that Klitschko might have been dealing with ailments too, the damage had been done in terms of optics. Haye even had his sock off in the ring and the postfight presser in case anyone doubted him.
Let's be clear about something, however. Wladimir Klitschko didn't really do much to take Haye out of their unification fight. Haye took himself out of the fight.
The first four rounds of the fight were intriguing - and pretty much even - and the 12th frustratingly for fans saw each man land some hard shots. Too little, too late. The only part of the fight that was a bore was that one round that lasted 21 minutes, otherwise known as rounds 6 through 11.
Let's agree that Haye did next to nothing from about round five to early in the 12th, when he buzzed the Ukrainian-German with a good right.
So then why then didn't Klitschko do more damage?
Where was the footwork to try and pin Haye? Where were the bodypunches that would have helped slow down the smaller man?
There were several instances where Haye missed wildly trying to bridge the height difference. Where were the counter shots on a fighter in a vulnerable position? Klitschko could have offered up an uppercut instead of incessantly pushing down on the smaller man. Haye played that Klitschko tendency to the hilt, flopping to the canvas several times (his equivalent to Cooney's cup blasters).
If you were to ask me to name the 10 most significant right hands in this bout (and there weren't much more than that), I'd say Haye landed about seven of them.
He also made Klitschko miss badly in the first half of the fight. Whenever Haye tried to engage, Klitschko lurched back awkwardly with his head high in the air, benefiting from his considerable height advantage.
I never thought Haye had much of a chance to KO Klitschko heading into the bout. The best tack, in my mind, was a fight plan in the manner of Michael Spinks against Holmes. In that bout, Spinks used movement but also got inside the arms of the bigger man to make him look oafish on several occasions.
That kind of fight was there for Haye make a go at winning but inexplicably he chose to not take the risk. He was the hare hopping around the ring, and Klitschko was the tortoise, plodding forward. Klitschko was effective with the jab in some rounds, but not nearly to the degree that some writers have bestowed upon him.
But Klitschko rightly got the nod because he was moving forward and landing a little bit. And I mean a little bit. In the land that of that ring in Hamburg, he was the one-eyed man.
Bottom line: Neither man covered himself in glory.
I re-watched the fight on Sunday and in round nine the first meaningful right hand Klitschko throws occurs 75 seconds into the round. In the 10th, it took him 90 seconds. (In the interest of fairness, the ninth was one of Klitschko's best rounds as he had a terrific last 60 seconds or so).
It had long been clear by that point that Haye was in self-defeat mode. I really think Klitschko could have stopped Haye had he put his mind to it.
To extend this blog's comparison to its natural end, this wasn't Holmes beating it out of Cooney. Of the three judges I agreed most with Stanley Christodoulou, who had it a six-point margin. I actually had it 8-4.
I said in my set-up piece last week that this fight was important in terms of each guy's legacy, and it that regard they both failed in my mind. Haye just failed more glaringly.
I'll stand by my assertion in that same piece that both are pretty good fighters. They were wary of each other's power, there was a considerable size discrepancy, and neither really ever counterpunches. Add that all up and you've got a letdown of a fight.
In this Twitter era where everything slightly out of the ordinary is the best or worst ever, there's been a lot of "pathetic" and "shameful" being thrown around in the wake of the fight.
Fine. But did you ever see Pinklon Thomas-Trevor Berbick? I did and I'm still scarred. Mike Tyson's fights with Bonecrusher Smith and Tony Tucker (also unification bouts) were dreadful. Heck, it was more entertaining than Haye pecking and poking at seven-foot embarassment Nikolai Valuev.
It was the type of the fight that will have MMA chirpers gleeful, as if there's never been a relative snoozer in that sport.
Boxing is as much the cagey, slightly crazy vet beating down the younger prospect or the 18-year-old making an exciting pro debut as it is the disappointing heavyweight title fight. Those two other happenings were on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights with wins by Sebastian Lujan and debuting Ivan Najera.
Cooney fought just five more times after Holmes, and was never a serious factor in the division again. Haye might even surpass that level of ambivalence, as he's already been talking about retirement for some time.
It will take a lot more time to rehabilitate his reputation.
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