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Wladimir Klitschko and his older brother, Vitali, now hold every world heavyweight belt following Wladimir's victory on Saturday night.
Wladimir Klitschko and his older brother, Vitali, now hold every world heavyweight belt following Wladimir's victory on Saturday night.

Knockout blow to the days of the heavyweights is on the cards

It is fair to wonder where the "sweet science" stands as a major sport now that Klitschko has shown that Haye is all hat and no cattle, as the saying goes in Texas.

What remains of boxing's global audience had been genuinely interested in seeing two fights, and only two. One is Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather Jr; the other was the farce played out in Hamburg late on Saturday night.

It is fair to wonder where the "sweet science" stands as a major sport now that Wladimir Klitschko has shown that David Haye is all hat and no cattle, as the saying goes in Texas. Haye met the younger Klitschko with various and sundry world heavyweight championships at stake and demonstrated that he is a far more convincing carnival barker than fighter.

To give credit where it is due, we must concede that Haye's blathering helped turn the fight into something close to must-see television. The colourful, if crass Briton, understands that agitation and insult are the mother's milk of the fight game, and he helped lure 50,000 people inside the Imtech Arena, generating huge revenues despite his slender credentials.

As a sporting competition, however, it was obvious by the end of the first round that Haye would not be able to penetrate the defensive perimeter constructed by Klitschko, whose potent jab and greater reach kept the shorter Haye outside easy striking range.

Haye's efforts to reach Klitschko's chin resembled a child attempting to knock something off the top of a refrigerator: wild, flailing motions while at the apex of a puny leap. One of those unsightly overhand rights apparently opened a cut under Klitschko's left eye, though it was hard to work out when that might have happened and harder still to imagine that the bigger man was ever in trouble.

Klitschko seemed willing enough to turn the fight into the violent spectacle that fans had been duped into believing was on offer, but while it may take two to tango only one is needed to ruin a fight.

Haye taunted Klitschko before the fight, but Haye showed no interest in trading blows. The fight sputtered through all 12 rounds and ended in a unanimous, lopsided and thoroughly deserved decision for the Ukrainian.

Haye complained of a broken toe and said his frequent falls to the canvas were the fault of Klitschko's pushing, but it was hard to conjure a scenario in which the retreating Londoner could have won, and the idea of a rematch seems ludicrous.

The result leaves the Klitschkos as masters of the heavyweight division; Wladimir and his bigger and older brother, Vitali, now hold every belt worthy of discussion.

Both men are technically sound boxers, if a bit mechanical. Each has a heavy punch and an enthusiasm for training not often seen in the sport. But each also seems almost bookish, when not inside the ring. Each is trilingual, which must be a first in the history of the heavyweight division, and Vitali has a PhD in sports science. Their nicknames of Dr Steelhammer and Dr Ironfist may be deserved, but more for the honorifics than some dimension of outsized aggression.

Neither, however, has a compelling personality. Neither triggers high emotion or ticket-buying impulses in fans. Each must be defined by his opponent, as Wladimir was by the preening, trash-talking Haye in the build-up to the fight. And that could mean trouble for the sport.

Boxing leans heavily on the heavyweight division to maintain interest in the sport; the idea of finding the "biggest and baddest" is compelling, and perhaps an innate aspect of the human condition.

The sport can survive a dull champion. Each of Primo Carnera, Floyd Patterson, Larry Holmes and Riddick Bowe sat atop the sport even as good times continued to roll. What boxing may not be able to survive are dull champions and dreary challengers, and that is the current situation. After the Klitschkos, the top contenders in some order, would seem to be Tomasz Adamek, Ruslan Chagaev, Eddie Chambers, Peter Samuel and Robert Helenius. One organisation lists Evander Holyfield as the No 15 contender. Holyfield is 48.

Where have all the great heavyweights gone? Are they all in mixed martial arts? Rugby? The National Football League? Or have large men just become disenchanted with the idea of being punched in the face by other large men?

Some of us remember when Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton were active and formidable at the same time. Even a decade ago, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and Holyfield were still fighting and filling arenas. None of the current crop of heavyweights, however, and this includes the Klitschkos, are likely to keep boxing in the headlines.

Pacquiao and Mayweather will some day get together - too much money is to be made. But after that, where does boxing go? Who will fans pay money to see? Promoters and managers must have been asking themselves that, on Saturday, as Haye's empty challenge dissolved in the rain of Germany.

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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