Haye V. Harrison: What Legacy?
Like most boxing fans I am incredibly excited about the weekend ahead. One of the greats of this generation fighting, in some people’s opinion, an overrated and once disgraced man who probably doesn’t deserve this final shot at the big one. However, before Manny Pacquiao destroys Antonio Margarito, (and after that disgraceful video of Margarito and his cohorts mocking trainer Freddie Roach’s Parkinson’s disease I sincerely hope he does) we have another matter to deal with. David Haye versus Audley Harrison.
This fight is being billed as The Best of Enemies and Sky have done their usual job of trying to ratchet up the tension as well as the importance of the biggest all-British heavyweight clash since Frank Bruno took on Lennox Lewis in 1993. It’s also the biggest all-British affair since Haye’s 2 round demolition of Enzo Maccarinelli in early 2008. However, in real boxing terms that is where the importance ends.
“He doesn’t deserve a title shot” has almost been a mantra for Haye in the build up to the fight and the reality is that Haye is right. Audley Harrison was one punch away from a career ending loss to Michael Sprott in April of this year. Harrison should be nowhere near a world heavyweight title fight unless he has bought a ticket to watch. As exciting as this fight might be for the occasional boxing fan in the UK I can’t get away from the feeling that more discerning fight fans probably feel short-changed by this bout.
David Haye dominated the Cruiserweight division and was undisputed champion after going to Paris and stopping Jean-Marc Mormeck almost 3 years ago to the day he’ll fight Harrison. He then dipped his toe in the Heavyweight pool by beating Tomasz Bonin before essentially ending the career of Enzo Maccarinelli, (Enzo Mac was never the same again) with a comprehensive 2nd round stoppage. Only twice have I felt slightly sickened watching boxing despite its obvious brutality. Once was watching Ricky Hatton getting knocked out by Manny Pacquiao and the other was Haye’s victory over Enzo in early 2008. After this is was back to the Heavyweights for Haye and he wasn’t shy about telling us he was going to unify the division as he’d done in the Cruisers. All this before his 31st birthday in 2011. After beating a giant, if one-dimensional Nikolai Valuev Haye got the first part of his dream and he should get huge credit for that but after that it all stalled.
My biggest problem with Haye’s behaviour isn’t the fact that Harrison isn’t worth the title shot. It’s not even that Haye tried to paint John Ruiz, a first defence of his title, as a ‘live’ opponent. It’s that David Haye is cheapening his reign as champion by going back on what he said in the past. Haye always maintained that he wanted to be the best in the division after moving up weights and that he would do whatever it took. It wasn’t about the money, he said. It was about creating a legacy. Ducking the Klitschko brothers, and make no mistake that’s exactly what Haye is doing, is no way to become an All Time Great. Haye’s latest excuse is that he’s not getting enough of the tv money to fight Wlad or Vitali. So instead he fights Audley Harrison. Some legacy. I wouldn’t mind this at all if Haye had approached his latest odyssey like some, (Chris Eubank springs to mind) and say he wanted to make as much money as possible and retire early. I could then sit and watch his awesome speed and heavy hands and think ‘he’s not fighting the best out there but he’s not claiming he will and blimey, it’s entertaining’. David Haye said recently that Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko were running out of time to fight him before his planned retirement in October 2011. There’s only one person running here and it’s Haye, to the bank.