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Moment that mattered: David Haye loses the heavyweight title fight to Wladimir Klitschko

Heavyweight boxer Wladimir Klitschko of the Ukraine, right, punches WBA world champion David Haye of Britain during their heavyweight unification title bout in Hamburg, Germany, Saturday, July 2, 2011. Klitschko won the fight and is now IBF, WBO, IBO and WBA world champion. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

“Wladimir was the toughest challenge David could take on in his career, as he has these physical dimensions that are such an advantage. I’ve come into contact with the Klitschkos a few times and you couldn’t meet nicer people. I am impressed by how intelligent Wladimir is and I like what he stands for, but, ultimately, I hoped he’d get knocked out. During David’s last week of training he looked tremendous and I had no reason to doubt he could do it. The only doubts I had were just superstitions.

It had been sunny in Hamburg all week, then there was this biblical downpour – so bad it almost caused the postponement of the event. David’s England football shirt was another ominous sign. For the last ten fights his T-shirt colour had reflected the way that he intended to fight. Red for the more aggressive performances, blue when he was more cautious. Ultimately these things don’t matter but any break in the routine doesn’t bode well for a fan or friend.

I find it a privilege that David calls me into his room before a fight. I thinks it’s because I let him decide if he wants to talk or not. Other people try to chat, but I think he likes it that I seem quite calm. He’s incredibly laidback before a fight, you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve been with other boxers who act like they’re being sent to the gallows. That night was different though – while he was still calm, he seemed to be feeling the magnitude of it all. Getting to the ring he usually embraces the atmosphere – he makes the most of the music, soaks it in. In Hamburg he was rushed, he was sent a strange way through the crowd, got mobbed and I could see on his face that he was distressed by it.

“David landed far more power punches but ultimately Klitschko’s jab wiped the floor with him as he
controlled the range”

Rather than there being an actual moment [when he lost hold of the fight], it was more of a progressive thing. He did well in the opening rounds, but every time David threw his right hand, Wladimir would know it was coming and let it glance up over his left shoulder. As the rounds went on I realised that without his right, Haye wasn’t equipped to do the damage he needed to.

There was one moment where Wladimir caught David with a big right hand when he was backed up against the ropes. If anything I took heart from that because my greatest fear was that anything flush could have knocked David out cold. As it happened, he took half a dozen hard rights.

To me, the clearest opportunity for David to turn it around was in the twelfth when he finally landed a right. But Wlad did what a great champion does – he stalled for 30 seconds and then continued to fight exactly the fight he wanted to fight.

David has always hated anyone using excuses after a fight, which leads me to imagine that the toe story [post-fight Haye claimed that a broken toe sustained in training three weeks before the title prevented him sparring during the build-up and cost him the fight] was an instinctive response. Only David really knows if it was the real reason that he couldn’t land his right hand with full effectiveness.

In the aftermath I think David deserves recognition that he went 12 rounds and he got hit less than any other Klitschko opponent I can remember – it was more competitive than people remember. If you look at the stats, David landed far more power punches but ultimately Klitschko’s jab wiped the floor with him as he controlled the range.

David was gutted he didn’t win the fight and you could tell he felt he’d let people down. He joked to me that he hoped he hadn’t fucked up the ending for my book – which he obviously hadn’t. Deep down he knows he didn’t disgrace anyone and that he had nothing to be embarrassed about.  But he’s always on the internet reading about boxing and he Googles his own name more than anyone else’s. He saw all the stuff people were saying about him and some of it was really harsh.

I was with him in Jamaica just after he announced his retirement a few months later and it seemed like a final decision. He didn’t seem to have any competitiveness left in him. He was into his golf and was thinking about changing career, becoming an actor or something. Then he came back to the UK and started realising that getting into acting wouldn’t be easy, not a quick fix, and he started training again.

At 31 he’s at his athletic peak, all faculties intact, but he wasn’t building up to anything. I suspect he will stay retired for now, but would be tempted back by the chance to fight Vitali Klitschko – he’s been chasing that for a long time. I think if there was any possibility of that fight happening he’d jump out of bed.”


Elliot Worsell is the author of David Haye’s authorised biography ‘Making Haye’, published by Quercus.

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