Out of all those who constitute what we might call the ‘boxing world,’ it often seems as if the only ones with any insight are the professional promoters. If this runs counter to your intuitions, then you’re probably part of the proverbial problem. Consider this question: what explains the avalanche of awful analysis on the Klitschko-Haye cat-and-mouse marathon this weekend? If your immediate answer is that David Haye failed to deliver on his pre-fight promises, then you didn’t read the question correctly: the issue is not that the analyses were uniformly of a poor fight but that the analyses of the fight were uniformly poor. The former point is simply fact, and should have been expected; that it wasn’t probably explains the latter point and consequently merits more attention.
But let’s back up a bit; you may not think the post-fight reports were particularly poor. After all, didn’t David Haye deserve the derision he received for failing to deliver? After more than two years of vulgar trash talking, he spent the better part of twelve rounds either running from Klitschko or falling at his feet. To make matters worse, he excused his poor performance by complaining of a broken toe, supposedly sustained several weeks ago (presumably it was the little piggy that stayed home). Two points are worth noting here: first, when one considers the number of times that Haye has put his foot in his mouth, the injury should surely come as no surprise. Second, and more seriously, only a little insight into sports psychology should be necessary to see the importance, to a fighter, of protecting himself from the immediate acceptance that he lost to a superior foe. Haye may have sounded silly after all his pre-fight bluster but his broken-toe excuse was hardly breaking new ground.
So what’s with the anti-Haye hysteria? It seems that only a few options are available and none of them casts fans (or pundits) in a favourable light. Either:
1) Haye’s promotional posturing convinced observers that he presented a legitimate challenge to Klitschko, or
2) Haye’s promotional posturing, which appeared to upset Klitschko, led observers to think that the latter would actually fight aggressively.
It appears that excitement about this fight must have involved believing either (1) or (2) (or both of course). Those who failed to believe at least one of the two options and yet watched the fight anyway are either pundits, or the credulous (of course the former doesn’t automatically exclude the latter as we will see in a moment!)
If there are other options it’s hard to see what they could be. And if there are no other options, then it’s hard to see how fans can avoid the conclusion that they only have themselves to blame for paying for this weekend’s farce of a fight. David Haye’s Heavyweight resume is hardly expansive and nothing about it suggested that he’d really fight by meeting Klitschko in the middle of the ring. Klitschko’s resume is much more impressive, until that is, you recall that he’s constructed that record without suggesting that he really wants to fight anywhere, angry or not. If the visual evidence doesn’t convince you, then listen in on Emmanuel Steward between rounds.
Boxing fans need to consider that it isn’t David Haye (or even Wladimir Klitschko) that they should be angry at: it’s themselves. Of course it’s not illegitimate to wish that we had a Heavyweight Champion whose victories were based on something more than mostly sheer size, or who boxed like he was the baddest man on the planet. And it wouldn’t hurt to have some genuine Heavyweight contenders either, but as long as fans pay for Fools Gold, the promoters will keep on digging. The notion that a boxer is only as good as his last fight has lost all merit in a sport where fans refuse to consult their memories and consequently allow themselves to be prey to the promoters.
On a final note, if watching the ‘fight’ made you feel somewhat sick, then listening to the HBO ‘commentary’ team likely added the finishing touches. Part of the point of professional commentary is to add something that fans might miss. It’s arguable that any passer-by, picked at random, could have performed as badly as Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant last Saturday night. Fans are apt to take the posturing of professional athletes personally; broadcasters are paid not to, at least on-air. It’s evident that Larry Merchant was aggrieved about Haye’s loutish behaviour leading up to the fight – indeed it’s often hard to hear a fighter question the manhood of his foe – but Merchant would be much easier to take seriously if he hadn’t spent the second half of the fight directing just such barbs at David Haye. The most that one can say of Roy Jones Junior, at HBO, is that as an ‘expert commentator’ he makes a good boxer (and you know you’ve paid to see his latest ‘fights’!). Apparently what the world really wants to see is an American Heavyweight contender. It seems then that it’s not Klitschko’s uninspiring style that has us despairing of the Heavyweight division, nor the dearth of legitimate threats to his robotic reign, but where they are born. God bless America!