With the fall of heavyweight overlord Wladimir Klitschko in November, the division is now wide open in a way it hasn’t been for many a year. While we aren’t quite on the verge of a new ‘Golden Age’, there is lots to look forward to from boxing’s marquee division. In January alone we have much to choose from. The Barclays Center in Brooklyn is hosting two title fights on the same night with Charles Martin and Vyacheslav Glazkov competing for the vacant IBF strap before Deontay Wilder defends his WBC belt against underdog Artur Szpilka. Also appearing this month are prospect Joseph Parker and WBC-ranked Andy Ruiz Jr, along with a spate of regional and national title defenses scattered throughout the coming weeks.
There is also the small matter of a former champion and unified cruiserweight king returning after an extended layoff. David Haye is coming back. On January 16th, the same night that Deontay Wilder defends his title in New York, the Hayemaker faces off against unheralded Australian Mark de Mori at the 02 Arena in London. This really should have aroused more curiosity than it has done, but I can understand why the response has been somewhat muted. Is it a good thing for the heavyweight division? Will this change anything in the long run, given the amount of activity going on already? I sum up a few of the pros and cons below.
Why we shouldn’t particularly care:
As we all know, this isn’t the first time Haye has tried to come back. He was scheduled to fight Tyson Fury on two occasions, both of which generated huge interest and both of which were cancelled due to Haye getting injured during training. He also pulled out of a 2013 fight with Manuel Charr, citing hand problems. While not his fault, it certainly extinguished some of the fire of his career, and he retired without much protest from the boxing community. Now he reappears, three and a half years later at the age of 35, fighting an opponent that although capable, is nowhere near the level of Haye’s former foes, with due respect. This doesn’t make the comeback a bad thing, but it has nevertheless become a bit of a non event.
General expectations are that Haye will make short work of de Mori, so much so that should the contest prove anything other than an easy night, he will be labelled as a ‘past-his-prime’ fighter who struggled against someone who has never made an impact on the world stage. A win, and… well, that was always going to happen, wasn’t it? Unknowingly, David Haye might have just promoted himself into a lose-lose situation. Lose and it’s over. Win and it’s meaningless.
Why we should care:
Speaking honestly, most of us are interested in having the Londoner back. Although there are now more fighters vying for a title shot than when he last fought, there are still precious few of them who have the kind of explosiveness Haye possesses. Assuming his circuitry still works and his timing is sharp, he will find himself firmly back in the rankings of boxing’s governing bodies should he win convincingly. But rather than focus just on Mark de Mori (which hasn’t captured the imagination), David claims he is using the contest as a warm up for a clash with Anthony Joshua, a fight worthy of considerable attention, domestic and international.
The Haye of old would cause issues for any fighter and if he rediscovers his form, each of the current champions should be duly concerned. Happily, there are signs that the fire is still there; he has reportedly shunned big TV deals for the fight, opting instead to stream it on YouTube, in a brash “its-not-about-the-money” move. Teaming up with Shane McGuigan will surely prove an excellent pairing and a number of lifestyle choices, such as becoming vegan, are reportedly reaping positives. McGuigan believes he will fight 2-3 times a year, and if all goes to plan, it can’t be too long before The Hayemaker has another shot at a world belt.
For me, it will be interesting to see how he fits into a division much changed since he last competed. Judging by the injuries and the withdrawals from high profile fights (not to mention the distasteful brawl with Dereck Chisora at a post-fight press conference) that have blighted his career over recent years, I have grown accustomed to associating David Haye with a degree of disappointment. However, that has very little to do with what he does in the ring and what he does in the ring is certainly something I am interested in.