The British Boxing Board of Control announced today that Britain’s former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion of the world David Haye will not be renewing his boxing license, giving credence to the fighter’s word that he will retire on his 31st birthday.
Internet forums and social networking sites are awash with a mix of criticism and praise for the Londoner, whose last fight was a
comprehensive points defeat to division number one Wladimir Klitschko. There was talk of a possible “last hurrah” against Wladimir’s 40 year old brother Vitali, but those plans seem to have been abandoned.
The idea of a final fight “for the fans” for Haye doesn’t really make sense, as he never truly engaged with a wider audience. His conduct in the lead up to his fights with fellow Londoner Audley Harrison and Wladimir are testament to that, and the
manner in which Haye dealt with the Klitschko defeat – blaming his lacklustre effort on a broken toe – has seen him widely ridiculed by writers, fighters and fans alike. He joins Harrison in a less-than-prestigious club of fighters who talked the talk but – when it truly came down to it at heavyweight – didn’t walk the walk.
Haye was an excellent cruiser, the off-the-floor victory over France’s Jean-Marc Mormeck for the undisputed title in 2007 was the pinnacle of his career. If he’d faced Tomasz Adameck and Steve Cunningham and beat them, we’d be talking about Haye in the same breath as Evander Holyfield. But he moved up, which is fine, Holyfield did too. But by the time he moved up to heavyweight, something changed. The mouth was now getting Haye the fights, not his performances. Monte Barrett was the perfect opponent for a KO debut, but Haye’s title-winning victory of Nicolai Valuev is now a registered cure for insomnia.
The heavyweight adventure was a perfect exercise in money-making and marketing, but it has also damaged Haye’s standing in the eyes of the boxing world. The run-up to the Klitschko fight – including the delayed ring entrance – should be studied by sports psychologists and trainers for decades. File it under “How to Disrespect Your Opponent, Fail at Mind Games, Alienate
Your Fan Base and Embarrass Yourself in Public”.
Above all else, Lennox Lewis shouldn’t be made to wait for anybody.
A five-minute highlight reel on YouTube will show an explosive fighter with the looks and the gift of the gab. That will be enough
for casual fans. But boxing aficionados will look back on his career as a wasted opportunity. If he was more active and more honest with himself as a fighter, he would have endeared himself to the public more, win or lose.
Ricky Hatton was knocked out by the best two fighters in the world, having given it everything and been respectful all the way. His stock has risen on both sides of the Atlantic in retirement – despite the blips along the way as he struggled to adapt – because of the way he conducted himself inside and outside the ring.
David Haye may struggle with retirement for completely different reasons, but the world should wish him all the best with the rest of his life.