Watching Britain’s David Haye holding the WBA World heavyweight title aloft last weekend I was reminded of a piece the great boxing scribe Hugh McIlvanney penned on roughly the same subject.
McIlvanney wrote that most Americans look on a British fighter whose waist happens to be adorned with a World heavyweight belt as a cultural contradiction.
At first they react with shock, then bemusement – the way you’d react to an Amazonian Indian with an ice skating medal – then resignation, followed by a deep sigh. London-born Haye claimed the WBA crown with a majority points win over lumbering Russian giant Nikolai Valuev in Nuremburg, Germany last Saturday.
The British media went ape, David slaying Goliath etc etc.
Having lost the will to live half way through the fight I can’t really give any breakdown on the spectacular absence of any discernable talent of either combatant, although it was clear from the opening bell up that, Valuev, nicknamed, The Beast from the East, is an acute embarrassment, and Haye wouldn’t punch snow off a rope.
Promoter Frank Warren said after the debacle, which was described by James Lawton as the absolute nadir of pugilism, that Valuev leaves a lot to be desired as a fighter.
No-one can tell me Valuev is a quality heavyweight. He is not even an average heavyweight. People talk about Valuev as though he is something special. He is probably one of the worst heavyweights ever seen.
Valuev – all he’s missing is a bolt through his neck – would remind you of those old movies. He’s the monster, stalking after you, slowly, hands outstretched, grrrrrrrrrrr, shifting one foot after another with menacing intent, grrrrrrrrrrrrr.
A maiden is running away into the forest, shrieking, as they do. But Valuev still manages to catch up with her despite the fact that he’s merely walking and she’s breaking the world 200m record. How does he do it?
But just as the monster is about to do something unspeakable to our comely maiden – and we’re all in favour of maidens coming round these parts – he hears a violin playing from deep within the forest. Hark! Why it’s a blind man with a long white beard, charming the birds out of the trees with his virtuosity.
So Valuev – in this particular movie there were Pyramids in the background for some reason – drops the shrieking maiden, ambles off and throttles Transylvanian Stevie Wonder instead. Very superstitious, hieroglyphics on the wall etc.
Meanwhile, Haye and Value are an affront to a Division that was once dominated by Gladiators such as Jack Dempsey, Muhammad Ali, Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson . I reckon that any one of the above quartet would have beaten Haye and Valuev at the same time. The great Irish/Cherokee warrior Dempsey would have buried both of them in a heart beat.
Ali would have danced around them for a round or two – looking good – before felling both with the same punch and Frazier would have just eaten them without salt.
And as for Tyson. Putting him into the squared circle with these two frauds would be the equivalent of unleashing a Velociraptor in a Bingo Hall.
Not that you’ll be reading any of this in the British media this week of course. The Brits lose all objectivity when it comes to the heavyweight title, but maybe we shouldn’t begrudge them their flights of fancy, as leaving aside Frank Bruno, who was demolished by Tyson, and Lennox Lewis, who is Canadian, they haven’t exactly set the division alight over the last 120 years.
Before Lewis, the only heavyweight champ that our near neighbours can lay claim to was Bob Fitzsimmons, who won the heavyweight title in Carson City in 1897 after out-gunning James J. Corbett. Doc Holliday was probably the promoter – Billy the Kid providing the security.
Then there was Phil Scott in the 1930s. The Yanks nicknamed Phil, “Phaintin Phil” because he won six of his fights on disqualifications after going down clutching his groin and conning the ref into believing that he was hit below the belt.
However, Phil fondled his balls once too often and when he was really hit below the belt by Jack Sharkey in the late 30s the foul went unpunished and Phil was removed from the ring on a stretcher, clutching the family jewels, objecting – in a very high pitched voice.
Welsh heavyweight Tommy Farr meanwhile, did go the distance with Joe Louis in 1937 and Henry Cooper dropped Ali with a stunning left hook once. But both men were comprehensively beaten in those fights.
But that’s about it folks. Hence the Americans’ view of Britain as a classical breeding ground for heavyweights whose only career objective, after crossing the Atlantic, is to occupy large areas of floor space after being KO’d.
Meanwhile, former World champ Joey Gamache has offered Haye a piece of career advice – avoid the Klitschko brothers.
Haye is planning two defences in London next year.
One could be against mandatory challenger John Ruiz, who is to all intents and purposes worse than Valuev, and talks are taking place to meet one of Klitschko brothers, Vitali, the WBC champ, who has already vowed to knock Haye out, or Wladimir, at Wembley in 2010.
However, Gamache, who was helping put Andy Lee through his paces in a media work-out at the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) yesterday, reckons Haye should stay away from the Ukrainian brothers.
Gamache, who won World titles at two different weights, will be working Lee’s corner along with Lee’s brother Roger and Javan Hill when he meets French middleweight Affif Belghecham at the University of Limerick (UL) next Saturday.
He said: If I was one of the Klitschko’s I’d be smiling at this one. I wasn’t impressed with David Haye at all last Saturday. I believe he should avoid both Klitschko brothers to tell the truth.
Wladimir is a much busier fighter than Valuev. Valuev got some of the fundamentals right against Haye last Saturday but it was a very poor fight and I just wasn’t impressed with either of them.
Meanwhile, Lee, who regularly spars and trains with Wladimir Klitschko, looked very sharp in four rounds of pad work with Gamache and his brother Roger in front of about 400 LIT students.
And the 2004 Irish Olympian, who fights out of the Detroit Kronk, says that he has no problem facing a fellow southpaw in his hometown next weekend.
He said: The best knock out of my career came against Carl Daniels at Madison Square Garden and he’s a southpaw so I don’t see any problem in fighting a southpaw at all. In my amateur days I came up against all styles of opponents and that was a great learning experience for me that helped me to adapt to all styles of opponents.
It’s going to be a very tough fight on Saturday. I’m under no illusion about that. Belghecham will come to fight and I have no doubt that I will have my work cut out.
Gamache agrees that the French fighter’s southpaw stance won’t cause any undue problem, but he reckons he’ll raise his game in the Treaty City.
He added: Andy’s got a tremendous amount of sparring and training with southpaws under his belt in New York over the last few weeks and he’ll be ready for the big fight.
We trained in Manhattan and we trained in the Bronx and he’s in fantastic shape for his third fight in his home town. We all love coming back to Limerick because we always get a fantastic reception.
I believe that Belghecham will rise to the occasion on Saturday. He a tough caliber opponent and he’s also the European Union champion, that’s a solid combination. Everyone raises their fight against Andy these days because they know who they are in against. Andy is well able to cope with that though, he’s used to it.
This is a big, big night for Andy, make no mistake about it. He can move right up the rankings with a win on Saturday.
Meantime, as a footnote, the most ominous cackle in pro boxing was heard last Saturday as Haye stuttered to his win over Valuev. Take a bow Don King. The former inmate NO 125734 of a Correctional Facility in Marion, Ohio, where he was serving time on a manslaughter rap, is back in business.
Will Don exploit the present state of anarchy in the heavyweight division and grab himself a fistful of dollars going out the door?
Is the Pope a German?