x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Hayemaker in need of a licence to thrill

David Haye, the boxer, said he wants to play the classic movie character James Bond when he retires from pugilism. Perhaps Saturday night's fight against Audley Harrison was his audition.

The exciting David Haye, left, took just over eight minutes to dispose of a rather boring Audley Harrison in their WBA Heavyweight championship contest in Manchester on Saturday night.
The exciting David Haye, left, took just over eight minutes to dispose of a rather boring Audley Harrison in their WBA Heavyweight championship contest in Manchester on Saturday night.

David Haye, the boxer, said he wants to play the classic movie character James Bond when he retires from pugilism.

Perhaps Saturday night's fight against Audley Harrison was his audition. It was certainly pure 007: a fictional tale with some hammy acting and a cast-iron guaranteed outcome. Of course, the real Bond would have strung us along for more than eight minutes, which is barely enough time to finish one's popcorn, before winning the day.

For the purposes of suspense, he would even let his opponent win some early rounds, no matter how puffed-up and preposterous that villain might be. (Harrison, whose career peaked with Olympic gold 10 years ago in Sydney, campaigned under the Barack Obama-style slogan of "Yes I can!". Hopefully, having helped to fleece fight fans who paid £15 (Dh89) in the hope of seeing, well, a fight, he will now add the word "retire" to that proclamation.)

Still, I like Haye and I wish him well in his ambitions to portray the world's favourite fictional killer. Tangling with psychotic egomaniacs, ruthless criminals and treacherous mercenaries may not be everyone's idea of fun, but anyone who has moved in boxing's murky circles should feel perfectly at home.

There is one small problem, however. Haye will need to act. Even Roger Moore acted, albeit from the eyebrows up.

Haye cannot follow the example of other athletes who have graced the silver screen - Mike Tyson, Eric Cantona, OJ Simpson - and simply play the role as himself. Bond's style is to threaten his opponents with the understated and amused superiority one might hear on the fencing pistes of Eton College, not the trash talk of the railway-arch gyms of south London.

You would not catch Bond saying: "Hey, Blofeld, you can blow but I am the hurricane, force 10 on the Beaufort Scale! My right glove has a licence to kill! My name is 007 but you can call me 'Uh Oh Seven' because I will knock you down in the seventh! Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; I'm on the secret service of Her Majesty!"

So which style of Bond will Haye adopt? The remaining 11 months of his career (assuming he keeps a long-standing pledge to retire at the age of 30) could give us a clue.

So far, Haye has been the Roger Moore-Bond of boxing: light and ironic, he treats the whole shebang with a raised eyebrow and a knowing wink to the audience. Plus, his ludicrous fight with the gentle giant Nikolai Valuev had shades of Moore grappling with the metal-dentured Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me.

But if Haye wants to become the Sean Connery-Bond of boxing (every sane fan's favourite) then he must shed the armour of irony and show some genuine heart, some real emotion. He must get angry, like Connery did. He must put his body on the line, like Connery did.

In short, he must stop the pantomime and fight Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko. But not at the same time, although Connery would have done.

Haye has the looks, charm and charisma to be a film star, for sure. He can spend the rest of his life playing fictional heroes, but he has just 11 months left to become a real-life one.

The clock on his destiny is ticking faster than that atomic bomb timer on Goldfinger.

New GPS-fitted grey jerseys put England on the road to victory

England’s rugby union players looked even chunkier than usual as they demolished Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.

This was not a result of that awful grey jersey, which appears to be yet another suction cup attached by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to the increasingly sore udders of the cash cow named Fans.
Darker colours are apparently more slimming than white, which is no bad thing for the traditionally well-upholstered rugby fan in a replica garment.

In fact, any increased girth was due to the players being fitted with a GPS. Nestled somewhere between their lion heart and that famous rose, every England man wore a device about the size of a large wristwatch. The gadget, which monitors heart rate and movement around the pitch, is tucked inside the neoprene undershirt, in a pocket specially padded to avoid causing injury.

Incredible. So the next time you see a player placing his hand on his left pectoral during the national anthem, you will not know if he is displaying patriotic fervour or just setting his Sat-Nav, punching in the postcode of the opposition’s try line. Perhaps that was how Chris Ashton, the winger, scored in such spectacular fashion.

Imagine the directions for that one:“You are 90 metres from your destination. Proceed straight on for 30 metres. At the first confused and lumbering golden shirt, bear left and proceed diagonally for 30 metres.

“When you can no longer see any golden shirts in your rear view, proceed straight on for the final 30 metres. Feel free to have a little wave on the way, nobody is near you. You have arrived at your destination. Now turn around and laugh at the Australians.”

If that is how the RFU are spending fans’ cash, I am all for it. I might even buy myself a horrible grey jersey.

sports@thenational.ae