Photo © Simon Dawson / AP
David Haye has long not made any secret about the fact that his goal is to move to the heavyweight division and unify the titles. After his demolition-style victory over Enzo Maccarinelli last night, the move is officially on. After beating Jean-Marc Mormeck to become the real cruiserweight champ, and defending against Welsh rival Maccarinelli in what was a big night for British boxing, Haye is on the move.
It all begs a lot of questions, though. Cruiserweight, first of all, is a division for guys like David Haye. Sure, Haye can easily fill out a heavyweight body, but why do it, besides the antiquated idea that it's the "money" division?
The first reason is fair and obvious: Making 200 pounds takes a toll on Haye, though to be fair, making any weight takes a toll on any non-heavyweight boxer. Ricky Hatton hardly walks around at 140 pounds, for instance. Boxers do not live normal lives, eating what they please and working out enough to stay "in shape" -- boxers are, generally, in remarkable shape that the regular public couldn't even imagine being in. The cardio alone is crazy.
But it's more than that for Haye. He wants the fame and glory of being heavyweight king, and what's more, he genuinely thinks he's got all the skills to make it happen.
Sure, he does.
Haye's hand speed is good, his power is good, and is explosive-type punching power, the type you see at much lower weights. He's not a shove puncher, he lands flush and with brutal force. He throws a few wild punches along the way, but so do most of the heavyweights.
Haye fought once at heavyweight, coming in at 217 pounds. In the modern age of the super heavyweight, where a doughy-looking sort like Sultan Ibragimov is carrying 220 routinely at the weigh-ins, Haye will need to put on some power weight in a big way. At 6'3", he's not going to be terribly undersized, even by someone like Wladimir Klitschko.
But he needs the bulk. Look, I think it'd be great if heavyweights could come in at 210-215 and beat a guy like Klitschko, but they can't. He's too heavy-handed when he decides to punch, too smart, too good at boxing from a distance. While I have no doubt Haye has the punching power to hurt or even knock out Klitschko, he has to get in there first. Being able to muscle his way in would be a big help.
At 215-220ish with his body structure, he's still quite lean. The other problem is going to be his chin -- he's not immune to tasting canvas. Mormeck put him down, Maccarinelli even hurt him in their short fight, and he was long ago knocked out by big-hitting Carl Thompson. Haye is hurtable, and that's at cruiserweight.
The Evander Holyfield argument comes into play any time a top cruiser steps up to heavy, but I don't find it particularly useful, and here are five reasons why:
1. Evander Holyfield was a sensational -- not good -- cruiserweight fighter
2. Evander Holyfield's chin was made of concrete that had been left out in the arctic tundra for a while
3. Evander Holyfield had a will to succeed that was unlike any I've ever seen
4. Evander Holyfield was a first-class student of the game
5. Evander Holyfield is a Hall of Famer -- David Haye no offense, probably isn't
I'm not at all trying to slag Haye, just put into perspective how special Holyfield was. Haye is not Holyfield, and I don't feel that's an insult to David Haye.
Plus, he's not going to step into a fight with Wladimir Klitschko right off, or Samuel Peter, or even Ruslan Chagaev. His name is still unknown in the United States, as well. At 21-1 and with dangerous power, Haye might find it tough to come by quality opponents. So where could he start? How about another fiver list?
1. Calvin Brock -- Brock badly needs a significant win, something he hasn't been able to find since...I don't know, does Brock really have a truly significant win? Timor Ibragimov is a full peg below the likes of the true heavyweight contenders, Jameel McCline is the same, and so are Brock's other best wins. When in against top fighters -- Klitschko and Chambers -- Brock has lost, even though he didn't really fight poorly either time. Actually, Brock-Haye makes a lot of sense for both guys.
2. Eddie Chambers -- Our own Matt Miller thinks that Eddie Chambers would be a good test opponent for Haye at heavyweight, and I do agree. Chambers would be sort of a transition-type opponent, as he's really a cruiserweight that eats himself into heavyweight territory. He's a super boxer, probably has the fastest hands in the division, and can hold his own against just about anybody. That said, Chambers is heavily flawed. Landing a few combos and standing still to admire them would get him killed against Haye, who may be a harder puncher than Alexander Povetkin even if there's a 30-pound difference between the two.
3. David Tua -- Showtime is ready to back Tua if the former contender is truly ready to make one more push at a heavyweight title, and it's easy to understand why. One savage left hook from Tua, and anyone in the division could be looking up at the lights. Given that Haye now has some association with the network, can you imagine a Tua-Haye fight? Hey, you want action? Sign that one.
4. Cristobal Arreola -- Arreola is a favorite of many, and I like watching him fight, but I have serious reservations. He's 23-0 with 21 knockouts. He's also 27 years old. Stop fighting Cliff Couser types. Prove something.
5. James Toney -- There are several other guys you could consider for this spot, but I have the feeling that Haye and presumably Showtime will want an American, and that they would prefer a somewhat notable one at least. The 39-year old Toney is again on the comeback trail following his PED suspension, and while he's lost a lot of his skills, a lot of his fans, and a lot of his respect, he still has a name. Haye would probably retire Toney -- and that'd be a good way for Haye to start his heavyweight run.
It's such an interesting case, and I'm pretty happy that David Haye is going to move up a division. He's a good, exciting fighter, not too brainy to engage in a war, and not without flaws or vulnerability. Those are the fighters the division needs to overcome fights like Klitschko-Ibragimov or even Maskaev-Peter.
In the end, though, I can't help but get the sneaking suspicion that as exciting as Haye is, even his heavyweight fights are going to be largely snoozefests against either overmatched opponents or guys who will find a way to use their size enough to neutralize his offensive attacks. I wish him all the best, and truly hope he's someone that can make the division worth watching again, even if only when he's fighting.