Now or never for David Haye

Remember when most of us liked David Haye?

There was a time when British boxing fans – also known as Haye fans, as the two have rarely been mutually exclusive – were hoping to witness this meteoric trajectory into boxing immortality on the biggest stage of all: the heavyweight division.

A relaxed David Haye sat on the Jonathan Ross sofa in 2009, looking every bit a national hero adorned in his WBA Heavyweight belt.

It seemed, to the optimistic, an announcement of the next great champion as Haye effortlessly masked the feral instincts of a man bred to fight with wit and gentlemanly charm – as Muhammad Ali had done before him.

It is a moment in time that, to this day, stands as the pinnacle of the aspiring champion’s boxing career.

The WBA Heavyweight title fight that had become the subject of banter on the Jonathan Ross Show witnessed a convincing victory for Haye over the 22-stone giant Nikolai Valuev.

The fight induced such a convincing wobble from the towering Russian in the final round as to tease the audience with the prospect of seeing the huge man fall to the canvas for the first time.

The other little remembered fact about David Haye is that he achieved the rudimentary template for success within the cruiserweight division, unifying all four: WBA, WBC, WBO and The Ring cruiserweight titles in March 2008.

The latter was clinched in a fight against Enzo Maccarinelli widely seen as the biggest British boxing match since Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn.

Needless to say, however, David Haye has since fallen foul of sport’s most ruthless truth: if you fail to reach the top, it’s nothing but a long fall to the bottom.

And if a near knockout victory over Nikolai Valuev was the beginning of the man’s propulsion to success, then attacking Derek Chisora with a bottle in a post match brawl was most certainly the sobering blow that left David Haye’s reputation in the world boxing at a seemingly irreparable low.

You can probably guess which event has more hits on YouTube.

After the Valuev fight, David Haye was an undisputed world class boxer, a reputation that earned him the right to fight Wladimir Klitschko – one of two brothers that together held the remaining titles in the heavyweight division.

It was during the Klitschko campaign that Haye began to exhibit and rely on the uglier side of his persona.

Haye portrayed himself as the trash-talking, untamed thug to the classy and grounded Klitschko, a dichotomy that even managed to turn a large proportion of the British fanbase against him.

Even his own supporters saw his warped machismo and ostentatious image as out of keeping with the honourable sport of boxing.

And then came the fight. David Haye’s long-awaited statement to the history of boxing developed as an underwhelming anti-climax, Klitschko winning a unanimous points victory that emphatically laid claim to his own pre-fight mantra: “talk is cheap”.

The loss was made all the more embarrassing as Haye’s detractors dug their teeth into his excuse of a broken toe, leading The Daily Mail to publish the headline ‘Hero Toe Zero’.

The British public were left disappointed by the man they thought could have been the next big thing.

Since this night, David Haye has retired, come out of retirement, and fought Derek Chisora twice (once inside the ring, once outside) – none of which did much to alter the general perception of him as a flamboyant character who will never be a great boxer.

Which brings us to the present day. David Haye has now announced that he plans to come out of his second retirement in three years and has once more set his sights on the world championship, which in the heavyweight division still means he finds the Klitschkos in his firing line.

Haye has claimed to make it “impossible” for Vitali Klitschko, brother of Wladimir, to deny him by fighting his way into contention and has also told of his desire to right the wrongs of his loss to the former.

Haye will be hoping his fight with Wladimir Klitschko and his saga with Derek Chisora are blips in a journey to entrenchment into the history of British boxing, as he plans to fight two as yet unnamed opponents in 2013.

His failure to endear the majority of British boxing fans means that he now fights for everything: for victory; for pride and, most importantly, for history.


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