By Jake Donovan
Apologies to your ego, David Haye, but you most certainly need the Klitschko brothers far more than they need you.
The brash Brit made the second defense of his alphabet title with a third round knockout over countryman Audley Harrison on Saturday evening at the M.E.N Arena in Manchester, England.
It was clear from the outset that the pre-fight trash talk would far exceed the entertainment value – or lack of it – to be found in the ring. Both fighters pawed at one another in the opening round, with nary a meaningful punch landed. The crowd voiced its displeasure early and often, with a chorus of boos echoing throughout the arena by rounds end.
Things didn’t exactly jump off in the second, though both fighters were slightly more active. Harrison was determined to work behind his jab out of the southpaw stance, while Haye waited - and waited some more - for an opening to drop a right hand, though he began to let his hands go a bit more as the round went on.
Haye took control in the third round, scoring several right hands that had Harrison in trouble and the crowd on its feet. The only not on his feet was Harrison, after stumbling to the canvas midway through the round courtesy of a barrage of punches from the defending titlist.
The fight could have very well been stopped on the spot, but referee Luis Pabon gave the 2000 Olympic Gold medalist every chance to continue. Haye wasted no time in making both the third man and Harrison regret that decision, unloading with a swarm of head shots before Pabon had no choice but to intervene.
The official time was 1:53 of the third round.
Haye improves to 25-1 (23KO) with the win, his 15th straight. The win is his second straight stoppage since annexing an alphabet belt from Nikolai Valuev exactly 53 weeks ago.
Harrison falls to 27-5 (20KO), snapping a four-fight win streak. The underachieving southpaw was rightfully bashed by the Sky Sports broadcast team for essentially turning in a non-performance, putting up little to no effort during the brief encounter. So poor was his showing that his name was roundly booed by the capacity crowd when his name was announced at the end of the night by ring announcer Jimmy Lennon, Jr.
Despite all of the pre-fight back-and-forth between the two, Haye insisted afterwards that there are no hard feelings, suggestive that it was part of selling the fight.
“We had a lot of words… but now it’s over, and I can shake his hand and take him out for drinks afterwards.”
There are many who wish he made good on that promise two rounds earlier, but as is the case with any fighter worth his salt, you hope to please the crowd but at the end of the day still have to fight your fight.
“I could’ve taken him out a lot earlier if I put my foot to the pedal,” Haye insisted afterward, “but there was no need. I knew that the boos would turn to cheers in a matter of minutes. Once I looked Audley into his eyes (after the knockdown), I knew the fight was over.”
The fight was essentially over the moment Harrison decided he wasn’t going to throw a single punch with conviction. Rarely offering more than a jab, Harrison never bothered to test the theory that Haye may or may not be particularly strong of chin.
To his credit, Haye never even gave him a chance to make that happen, something that was obviously part of his pre-fight strategy.
“I look like I’m easy to hit, but I never gave him the opportunity to land the left hand. I waited for him to throw it so I can counter it, but it never happened. He can go somewhere else and perhaps win a world title, but it will never happen against me.”
Where Harrison next goes remains to be seen, although retirement seems like the logical destination. A disappointment throughout his career, the former amateur standout earned his shot at alphabet brass only due to scoring a one-punch last round knockout against Michael Sprott in a fight that he was desperately behind.
It’s doubtful that he ever gets to live this one down.
As for Haye, he has the chance to erase a healthy portion of the bad press he’s received (and helped generate) over the past year and change. All it will take is for the brash Brit to look towards the direction of the only two heavyweights on the planet that outrank him.
But while Haye’s options are limited in terms of what he can do to improve his Q rating, he insists the opposite also holds true.
“There’s nowhere else for (Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko) to go. They’re fighting guys like Shannon Briggs and anonymous guys looking for a payday. They have to fight me.”
Both were more than willing to make that happen both this year and last. In a span of three months, Haye managed to kill fights with both Klitschko brothers – each of which carried substantial interest from American cable giant HBO – and instead looked towards Valuev in his journey to join Evander Holyfield as the only lineal cruiserweight champions to capture heavyweight hardware.
Seeing as how neither Haye nor the Klitschko brothers enjoyed a particularly memorable 2010 campaign, the time has come to settle up on old business.
For the moment, Haye claims to be interested in making that happen.
“I guarantee that a fight with either of the Klitschko brothers will happen next year, and I guarantee that they will get the same treatment as did Harrison.”
Read Mark Vester’s full recap here: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=32804
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected]l.com