I have to say the television broadcast was amazing. Both men were introduced with their own video clips that featured some live action worked into the mix. Actors passed through a gym to a corner scene with a trainer fanning his fighter, a kid selling newspapers about the big fight and finally, Vitali Klitschko reading about it on a park bench. The Cirque du Soleil feeling was made only more surreal by Vitali looking to his left, revealing the guy next to him reading the very same paper is actually Big George Foreman and his smiling face. Seeing Foreman’s smile only added to the magnitude of this event and reminded us of not only how rare but how long it has been since we saw two top big men with mutual animosity go at it for money.
Haye’s anthem delegate pleaded, “God Save the Queen” (though he’d have settled for a toe) and Wlad’s bellowed a stirring "Ukraine’s [Glory] Has Not Yet Perished." America’s representative let loose a “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” and we were off.
“It was my plan to win this fight. The plan was to get this fight won. For whatever reason, it was not to be today,” said a post-fight Haye. “I’ve been plagued with injuries throughout my career. It’s really frustrating because I’m so powerful. I can land some really great punches but tonight it wasn’t my night.”
The reason it wasn’t Haye’s night was because from the opening bell, Wladimir Klitschko put multiple styles of jabs in his face all night, sometimes pawing, sometimes a range finder, at others, still a jackhammer. The Klitschko jab is a weapon that has tamed the likes of Ruslan Chagaev, Eddie Chambers, Sam Peter twice and Sultan Ibragimov among the 51 who have lost to him.
“It was the same situation. I’ve been criticized by David Haye after the Ibragimov fight but it was the same situation where Haye felt my punches and gave up his strategy,” said Klitschko. “He was very cautious. He was very difficult to hit. Same way with Ibragimov. He didn’t give me the challenge in the ring, an offensive fight. You know, let’s get a fight! Instead, he was fighting like all of them. Like all of my recent opponents. I would have loved to celebrate my 50th knockout. So we will postpone it then.”
From the outset, the men circled each other as we knew they would. Haye, who fights more like an athlete than a boxer, leapt in with wild right hands and used a nice left stick to the chest of Wlad. He would stay in that posture throughout most of the fight.
Klitschko was Klitschko. From center ring, he used multiple jabs though a bit high or off the mark at times. Haye used good head movement to get out of the way much of the time. For at least two rounds, we waited for that right hand of Wladimir’s, the telephone pole delivered with ancient Ukrainian fury and precision. When it finally launched deep into the second, it missed the mark just a bit.
In fact, save for a right hand in the fifth that rocked Haye into the ropes, Wladimir never quite landed his Sunday punch in this one. Sure, he landed some good right hands; he just never got all of one. Perhaps that was because he spent much of the fight looking to do so. He forgot all about his left hook in this fight except for maybe one or two times.
In the lead in, Haye had derided the Klitschko “jab-jab-grab style,” saying he had an answer for it. He did have an answer for one part of the style but certainly never figured out the jab. Throughout the fight, whenever Klitschko tied up and looked to lean on his opponent’s back, as is his normal infighting tactic, Haye would simply fall to his knees on the canvas. He got away with it the first two times because he waited long enough to make it look good. In the seventh, it got a point deducted from Wlad in a round he was winning.
The fight was tense through four rounds, both men getting in their shots here and there. The fifth was probably the best round of the first half. Early on, Wlad landed a nice right hand off a jab with Haye on the ropes. The lead up was futile and Haye got back into a rhythm. At the bell, Haye had landed a nice right hand to answer.
In the corner between five and six, Klitschko’s trainer, Emanuel Steward, urged on his man. To his eyes, Haye was looking like he was the more active man because he was moving, jabbing and throwing an occasional right hand while Wlad was simply following him and looking for the big shot. When he did throw, as Steward pointed out, he did well.
Like a good fighter should, Klitschko responded in the middle of the fight, “stepping to” Haye as Steward suggested. He got lower in his stance and began to let that right hand go at different speeds. While not all of them landed entirely, some did which served to tame Haye, seemingly hobbled yet not showing it.
In the seventh, Haye got in a nice left hook on Wlad but not much else early and won the round. Wladimir went to tie up Haye and lean on his back. Haye dropped; referee Genaro Hernandez fell for it and Haye won himself a round…if he didn’t screw up the rest of it. Wlad tried to win back the round through aggression which allowed Haye to make him miss and pay in spots. Haye got cagey, moving in and out well and landing his jab, eventually landing the aforementioned left hook in an off-balance move.
Between rounds, Steward demonstrated for Hernandez the complicated mechanics of the Haye “He leans; I fall down,” move. Rodriguez lowered his eyes and silently agreed, “Yes. I fell for it. Thank you.”
The eighth moved past with nary a good punch landing. The ninth proved foreshadowing because Haye tried his fall-down move again only to be warned that he’d been found out by Rodriguez. This was also one of Wlad’s best rounds, particularly late as he got low and let the right hand go after some nice double jabs. Klitschko badly wanted the KO but just couldn’t land the one right shot. Some of the shots may have actually answered the chin question for Haye at this weight.
God must have been busy saving the Queen because by round 11, Haye could have used a little help that never came. Hopelessly down on the cards and out of ways to generate rounds or point deductions, he was going to have to go for broke. Things went from bad to terrible when Haye leapt into Wlad and was either thrown down or simply fell again but the ref had seen enough and gave him a knockdown count.
Haye responded to his needs with a solid 12th round opening as he blasted a right to the side of Wlad’s head. “Dr. Steelhammer” gripped Haye like a vise and for a brief moment, Haye’s dream was in sight. Klitschko responded like a champion and got behind his jab/right hand combos. It was a good thing Wlad didn’t commit to his pre-fight “You will be #50” prediction with a tattoo or anything because he simply couldn’t finish Haye despite stepping up his aggression and pressure down the stretch.
Overall, it was a clear win for Wladimir Klitschko, 56-3 (49), with scores of 117-109,118-108 and 116-110 to seal a unanimous decision. He is simply one of our very best. I disagree that size is his only attribute. That’s one skilled technician right there.
“I wish I could prove it with knockout of David Haye,” said Wlad, “but I think the fight talks for itself.”
Haye did what he could. When it came down to it, he had his moments and he never went down…from a punch. Haye is a fighter that is more athlete than boxer and that is exactly how he fought. When that didn’t work, was anyone surprised he had no other answers? It was, however, a disappointing excuse by Haye, who falls to 25-2 (23). Lose with grace. Keep the toe to yourself.
“All credit to Wladimir. He is a great fighter. Everything that was said in the lead up was to get him to come to me so I would have a chance to land my shots but he fought a smart fight,” said Haye. “I was trying to egg him on to get close to me so I could land. I couldn’t get him at long range so I was trying to encourage him, dropping my hands, giving him my face to try and get him to come inside so I could do something. He fought the smart fight and won on points.”
“If David’s toe had been well, who knows?” said Haye’s trainer, Adam Booth.
A question best pondered by the experts.
Booth said October 13, Haye’s birthday and the date given for his retirement, will be the last of David Haye as a fighter. Haye said he needed to look at the fight to decide if this was it or if one more is likely.
And now, boxing blue balls for anyone wanting a unified heavyweight champion: The only other fight we want in the world more than Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is Wladimir Klitschko vs. Vitali Klitschko for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. No fight is bigger than this one in my opinion. Manny vs. Floyd has a better chance of happening.
“We did accomplish our dream and unified all of the belts in the heavyweight division,” said Wladimir, who showed no signs of wanting to punch his brother, who stood beside him, WBC belt in hand. “We are and you have to call us now the undisputed heavyweight champions of the world. I share this with my brother and it’s really an [important] moment in our life. I am glad I can share it with the 50,000 people who came.”
The clearest threat to the Klitschkos has now been beaten. Can he redeem himself? Sure. Would we watch again? I would. I’d like to get my ten toes worth, please. A lot of people will be disappointed by the conclusion. I was. But it was not a terrible fight. Just not the great one we expected.