With WBC heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko forced to accept the mandatory challenge from former cruiserweight standout Juan Carlos Gomez, talks of Vitali facing ex-cruiserweight champion David Haye in mid-2009 hit the backburner.
But that doesn't mean that Haye has stopped demanding a Klitschko get in the ring and accept his big-talking challenge. With Vitali-Haye shelved, the London call has now gone back to Vitali's little brother, Wladimir.
I have been fairly quiet since Haye has started confronting the Klitschko brothers, not wanting to get all overly excited on the Haye Hype Machine. It is what it is -- he's a fantastic orator, and he talks the talk befitting a great heavyweight champion.
He also has, in some ways, walked the walk. David Haye is exciting. He's vulnerable, he's powerful. He's a powder keg in the ring. Any fight of his could end at any moment. And unlike the vast majority of heavyweight fighters in this pitiful era, David Haye comes to throw leather in every contest.
Some wish Haye would shut up, get in line, fight his way up, and "earn" his title shot. I say why? Who's he jumping over? Do we really need to see Haye against 40-year old James Toney to decide that we'd all rather see Wladimir fight David Haye than all these other guys?
Do we need to wait around and be fair? Boxing isn't a fair sport, if you haven't learned by now. The ugly politics will never truly ruin the game, because the game is too good and too compelling to become a complete victim to sanctioning bodies and trifling, scared promoters. But they can certainly put fresh bruises on the sweet science, and they try to do so as often as possible.
Forget fair -- give David Haye his title shot. He wants it. And he's potentially the best thing going in heavyweight boxing.
David's annihilation of Monte Barrett came with some asterisks. Barrett, at his advanced age, did rock Haye a bit, but that's to be expected. If you'd rather your fighters never get hurt, may I suggest to you a nice Sultan Ibragimov or Nikolai Valuev fight?
Go with the baser instincts, I say. David Haye, whether he wins, loses, or draws, is money in the bank.
And I think he is Wladimir Klitschko's nightmare. I'm saying it now. I think David Haye is a terrifying proposition for the big Ukrainian. And I think David Haye has a phenomenal shot at beating him.
Because Haye is a wonderful athlete, always in peak physical condition. He's active, he moves well, he throws punches from everywhere, and he hits damn hard. Forget the "cruiserweight" tag -- David Haye is a legit heavyweight. He's 6'3" with barely an ounce of fat on his body.
When is the last time Wladimir Klitschko was faced with a physical specimen that might have even possibly given him a real challenge?
Klitschko has a few losses, but he's corrected the bad habits that resulted in those losses. On his current streak, he has done the following:
Beaten DaVarryl Williamson and Eliseo Castillo, two guys roughly Haye's size, neither with Haye's ferocious instincts or natural gifts.
Scored a decision over Samuel Peter despite being knocked down three times. This was the turning point for Wladimir.
- Beaten Chris Byrd with ease, which he had proven years before he could do. Byrd was a technically sound, crafty fighter with no punch.
- Knocked out Calvin Brock, who was recently deemed by Klitschko as "not so good." Brock did press Wladimir a bit, as his right hand was an underrated weapon. But once Wladimir literally tasted blood, he turned the light on and crushed Brock, who just wasn't mobile enough to get away from Klitschko's power.
- Destroyed Ray Austin in a comically bad mandatory defense, knocking out the Ohioan in the second round, never throwing a single right hand.
- Beat the crap out of a nearly one-eyed Lamon Brewster in a rematch that probably had some sort of meaning for Klitschko, but had very little for anyone else. The world had accepted that Brewster over Klitschko in 2005 was probably a fluke. But hey, Wladimir exorcised a demon.
- Went 12 excruciating, mind-numbing rounds with Sultan Ibragimov, who might as well have not even shown up to the fight. Ibragimov had no intention of winning, merely desiring to stay off of Wlad's highlight reel. Mission accomplished, Sultan; nothing from that stinker will ever be on a highlight reel.
- Beat Tony Thompson with relative ease. Thompson, a nice guy and perfectly acceptable challenger, did his best, but was clearly up the proverbial S**t Creek without a paddle. Thompson's effort beat the combined efforts of Austin, Brewster and Ibragimov, but the late-starter was no match for the sound and powerful Klitschko.
- And, most recently, put the zombified Hasim Rahman back in the crypt with six-plus, one-sided rounds in December.
Look over that list, then scan it again, then give it one more glance.
But none of them have the athletic ability mixed with the punching power of David Haye. Klitschko has been allowed to stay in his comfort zone against every single one of those fighters -- even against Peter for most of the fight. He has worked off a jab, which is sometimes thrown with real purpose, and sometimes just seems to be an involuntary action. He's thrown some big rights, he's thrown some left hooks. And he's done it against a bunch of guys that weren't good enough to make him do anything else.
In other words, Wladimir Klitschko -- good as he is, and I believe he's very good -- has been fighting boxers that have been tailor-made for Wladimir Klitschko's strengths. Not one of them had the firepower, hand speed, or footwork to make Klitschko actually work for anything. (To be fair, Byrd did himself a disservice by trying to fight toe-to-toe with Wladimir in one of the stupider gameplans we'll ever see.)
David Haye is not brash for the sake of being brash. He's a supremely confident fighter that believes he can knock out anyone. He also isn't stupid -- he knows that the Klitschkos could put his lights out, too.
He also seems keenly aware that iron-chinned Vitali would be the tougher fight for him. There's no doubt in my mind that David Haye firmly believes he will knock out Wladimir Klitschko, which is another thing that was lacking from any of the fighters listed above. Most of them seemed overly cautious, almost too respectful of Klitschko.
Wladimir is a good fighter, and I can't say that enough. But I also cannot stress how strongly I feel that David Haye is by far the biggest challenge for him stylistically that there is in today's heavyweight division.
Haye will not cower from Klitschko. He will not be so fearful of the big punches from the big man that he waits for a perfect moment that isn't going to come, because Wladimir doesn't really make mistakes anymore. He fights mechanically, because he's been allowed to.
What happens when David Haye pounces? When he tags Wladimir? Wladimir also hasn't been hit flush or hurt by anyone since Peter put the fear of God into him. That's a long time ago.
No one has forced Wladimir Klitschko to fight. No one has really put his back against the wall. No one has tested his mettle.
I'm not trying to convince you that David Haye will beat Wladimir Klitschko if and when they square off. I'm just saying this is the heavyweight fight to see, one of the few with any real intrigue. There are probably only two outcomes: Haye scoring a huge upset victory and taking the banner as The Heavyweight, or Wladimir being forced to actually put on an entertaining fight, and knocking Haye out.
Who really loses? For once in the heavyweight division, not the fans.