Putrid Modern Hell #3

by HST UK on March 7, 2011

Prizefighting Pussies?

He who dares Rodney, he who dares”.

–       Delboy, Only Fools and Horses

When contributing for Slurve Magazine I wrote a piece about the decline of Heavyweight Boxing as a spectacle. I was particularly harsh on the dominant Klitschko brothers – Vitali and Wladimir. Yet I’m beginning to make an about turn on my initial opinion about the brothers, and the legacy they will leave in the history books. See, the bottom line is that they’ve been short of challengers in their era. This isn’t their fault. One of the old sporting clichéd responses spouted in relation to criticism of a champion during a barren era of worthy challengers is that the champion can only beat what is in front of him. With that in mind, when a challenger does arrive, with name value and a credible record then you would assume that the champion would be hell bent in facing that challenger in order to solidify his legacy.

Wladimir holds the record for the length of his reign as champion under three organizations, though the three losses on his record stand out more than they should for a decorated champion with over fifty professional fights to his name; this seems to be because he hasn’t fought any career defining fights. Unlike his brother Vitali who back in 2003 went to war with Lennox Lewis.

Vitali is due to face Odlanier Solis, a Cuban who has a superb Amateur pedigree in March. Solis is currently unbeaten as a professional and certainly has something about him; trouble is that he’s out of shape, and frequently accused of being ‘lazy’. Look at before and after photos of Solis, before he was a lean amateur, now he is a podgy pro. Wladimir will face off against Dereck Chisora in April. Chisora is a raw British brawler who could be tricky since he brings unpredictability and a no fear, gung ho attitude. However this fight comes way too soon for Chisora, since he has only recently made it to the top of the British Heavyweight Scene, and has very little European experience.

A challenger has been looming on the horizon for the last couple of years for both brothers, and that man is David ‘The Hayemaker’ Haye. Trouble is, Haye has announced that he plans to retire in October, the month of his thirty first birthday. He seems quite adamant that he will not make an about turn on this planned decision; therefore fitting in one or two Superfights in that time seems quite unlikely. Boxing fans everywhere hoped that the charasmatic risk taking Haye would be the breath of fresh air that Heavyweight boxing needed and attempt to single handedly end the Klitschko era. Unfortunately the more he achieves in the game, the less he wants to put on the line.

You’ve probably seen the video of Haye chasing down Wladimir and issuing the challenge, or even the peculiar WWE style promos where Haye has questioned the heart of both brothers. Haye at one stage desperately wanted to fight the brothers, yet as he got richer and became a World Champion in his own right by defeating the Russian giant Nikolai Valuev Haye has appeared more cautious, and seemingly more reluctant to face the brothers.

Likely, this is because he has significantly more to lose, and this reluctance may well have come from observing two of the biggest names in British Boxing in the last decade – Joe Calzaghe who retired as a undefeated World Champion, without losing his faculties and Ricky Hatton who retired after two morale crushing defeats to future all time greats of the Sport. Yes, both Calzaghe and Hatton have struggled to adapt to life after Boxing, but only one Hatton has serious hang-ups after coming up short when it mattered most. Time will one day heal these hang-ups, and Hatton will be content as a man in the fact that he had the balls to put it all on the line.

Haye took a risk when he went to Paris and defeated Jean-Marc Mormeck, and then brushed aside Enzo Maccarinelli to become the undisputed Cruiserweight Champion of the World. You could even argue that the Valuev fight was a real task for ‘The Hayemaker’ considering the height and weight difference between David and the Russian Goliath. But the fear of losing all of the empire that he’s built up seems to be bugging Haye. The farcical title defence against Audley Harrison tainted Haye’s reputation further, but the spectacle put him into the spotlight as one of the UK’s most recognized Sportsmen after David Beckham.

These comments from Haye are quite telling “I’ll just have to accept that becoming the WBA champion was enough and move on with my life. That’ll be 20 years of getting punched in the face, which is a long enough time. I set my goals and achieved them so unifying the titles is the cherry on the cake but if it doesn’t happen it wasn’t meant to be and I’ve just got to get on with my life”.

It’s rather harsh of me to title the piece ‘Prizefighting Pussies’, since these men have put their bodies on the line. Yet, you’ve got to consider how bravery and strength of character is important in the history and legacy in Boxing. This is why Ali is revered, why boxers such as Jake LaMotta, Jack Johnson, James J. Braddock and Micky Ward have had films made about their lives.

Money seems to have gotten completely in the way of pride. The main reason why the Klitschko’s and Haye won’t fight is that they can’t agree on a suitable contract; despite all three men earning enough money thus far in their careers to live comfortably when they hang up their gloves this for some reason is still massively important. Greed has overtaken glory.

The stalemate between the Klitschko’s and Haye seems quite tame in comparison with the fiasco surrounding the proposed Superfight to end all Superfights between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Back last year both fighters had allegedly agreed to fight for a fifty million dollar purse split, however then came numerous disagreements about drug tests. A request was made that both fighters would take blood tests, and that these tests would take place anytime from training to the actual fight date, Pacquiao’s team however wanted specifically scheduled tests, and no tests during the final fortnight run-up to the fight. Talks stalled.

Negotiations then were attempted to be revived by Promotion Kingpins Richard Schaefer and Bob Arum, again there were squabbles about drug testing. Then came the supposed verbal agreement from both fighters after long-winded negotiations, all that was needed was Mayweather Jr. to sign a contract to make the fight happen. However Mayweather Jr. did not respond. It was then claimed that negotiations for the fight had never even taken place. This caused tension between Arum and Schaefer.

Pacquiao in the meantime remains active, pretty much holding up the Pay Per View aspect of Boxing on his slight shoulders selling out stadiums and breaking revenue records, late last year he dismantled Antonio Margarito. He has signed to fight Shane Mosley in May, a fighter who was the last person to be defeated by Mayweather Jr. Mayweather himself remains outside of Boxing, in another one of his self imposed retirements; probably enjoying his money.

The Superfight to end all Superfights remains tantalizingly on the horizon. For Boxing fans it is something to hope for, to debate on forums, to argue about in sports bars. Whether or not it will happen depends on whether each fighter wants to put their legacy on the line. Being the loser of a Superfight can define a career in the wrong way, just ask Sonny Liston. The stakes therefore are too high. Both Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao will go down in history as hall of famers, legends of their time even if the fight doesn’t happen.

For the sake of the sport, one hopes that it does.


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