Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye: A legacy is at stake

By Francis Walker
Updated: June 27, 2011

NEW YORK, NY—The world heavyweight championship will be unified for the first time since February 2008 when unified IBF/WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko plans to make WBA titlist, David Haye his 50th knockout victim. More than 55,000 people are expected to pack Imtech Arena in Hamburg, Germany with millions more watching the fight on television in more than 150 countries.

HBO will broadcast “THE WAR: Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye” live from beginning at 4:45 PM/ET with a 10 PM/ET replay.

“THE WAR: KLITSCHKO vs. HAYE” is more than another world heavyweight championship fight. It’s more than a unification of the most significant weight class in boxing history. The fight between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye is about the legacy of one of the most dominant heavyweights of a single era in boxing history.

Klitschko can either cement his legacy against Haye, perhaps the most significant opponent of his career, or wither into the abyss following another knockout loss.

Klitschko doesn’t lose decisions, especially fighting at home in Hamburg. Therefore, the only way Klitschko loses is by knockout.

Let’s point to two of Klitschko’s most significant losses – Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster.

In each of those fights, Klitschko was beaten, pummeled, punched the hell out of, and knocked out horribly. The difference is against Sanders, he didn’t have a chance in hell once the bell sounded because, Sanders, a 6′ 5,” southpaw with speed and power shooting out from that left-hand, didn’t allow Klitschko to get set. Sanders attacked ferociously, forcing Wladimir to cover-up because he couldn’t see the punches coming. Klitschko suffered four jaw-shattering knockdowns in less than two rounds of action.

Sanders by TKO (2).

Against Brewster, Klitschko administered a relentless and brutal beating. It was an amazing sight to see a 6′ 2,” 245-pound Brewster get pummeled the way he did by Klitschko. But in the fifth round, Klitschko ran empty on the gas tank. Was drilled behind powerful Brewster bombs and was floored without intent.

Brewster by TKO (5).

A “Dead Man Walking” Klitschko wasn’t anything like the Undertaker going into his first fight with Samuel Peter in September 2005. HBO eagerly televised what appeared to be Peter’s coming out party. Peter would score three knockdowns and appeared to have a weakened and vulnerable Klitschko out on the mat.

But then something special happened.

The mammoth, 6′ 7,” 245-pound, 1996 Atlanta Olympic gold medalist arose from the canvas to dominate Peter behind a powerful left-jab and a strong right to accumulate points. Klitschko boxed the fight of his career at that point. The exclamation point occurred in the twelfth round after Wladimir landed a left hook that badly wobbled Peter sideways. Klitschko was awarded a unanimous decision by scores of 115-113 on the judges’ scorecards.

Six years after the first Peter fight, Klitschko is riding an impressive run. In April 2004, he knocked out Chris Byrd to win the IBF heavyweight championship. In 2008, Klitschko unified the IBF/WBO titles defeating Sultan Ibragimov at Madison Square Garden, New York City. In 2009, Klitschko started a trend of fighting in front of 60,000 in German soccer stadiums. He has successfully defended the IBF title nine times, including a ninth-round knockout of Samuel Peter in a rematch last year.

Legendary boxing trainer Emmanuel Steward has molded Klitschko both mentally and physically into a ferocious boxer-puncher. Klitschko uses his distance well by blocking punches with his jabbing-left, swatting shows away with his right, and using his footwork to set-up left jabs and powerful right hands.

Wladimir Klitschko’s best punch is his left hook. Anyone he hits with it cleanly will go. Just look at his fights with Ray Austin, Hasim Rahman, Tony Thompson, and Eddie Chambers. Byrd and Calvin Brock were flattened by the right hand. Ruslan Chagaev got tattooed by everything Klitschko threw at him.

Klitschko is ready to cement his legacy against Haye, a former unified WBA/WBC and WBO cruiserweight champion. Haye is the opponent for Klitschko because, Haye, arguably, is the fastest and accurate fighter that Klitschko has fought in years. Haye has power and look at the guys he beat since officially moving up to heavyweight: A 7′ 3,” 325-pound Nikolai Valuev (W 12). Haye had Valuev, recognized for his stamina and great chin, wobbly in the later rounds. Haye became the first fighter in more than 15 years to knockout John Ruiz (TKO 9) and he ended the miserable Audley Harrison (TKO 3) show. What a disgrace.

Haye maybe brash and cocky, but he is dangerous and he can fight. He will fight Wladimir the way he fought each and every opponent in his career. Namely, Jean-Marc Mormeck and Enzo Maccarenelli.

On July 2, either the Klitschko legacy will crumble, or Wladimir Klitschko would have solidified his place amongst the most dominant big men in boxing history.

Interesting fact: Mike Tyson (in is first reign) and Lennox Lewis (during his second reign), lost the world heavyweight championship in their tenth title defense. No one expected Tyson to lose to James “Buster Douglas” in February 1990. No one expected Lewis to get KO’d by Hasim Rahman in South Africa in April 2001. Both Tyson and Lewis were both terribly out-of-shape (check the official archives that doesn’t include YouTube).

Hardly anyone is expecting Haye to beat Klitschko, who is much bigger than Tyson and in better condition than Lewis was when he was 35. Klitschko is in fantastic shape and appears eager to seek vengeance for every insult, every graphic t-shirt, and lack of sportsmanship exhibited from Haye.

Let’s see what happens in Germany on July 2.