Yesterday was a big sports day for me. The biggest heavyweight boxing match in years, Wladimir Klitschko vs David Haye, took place in Germany, while the biggest tennis match of the year, the men’s Wimbledon final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, took place in England. I even played some casual basketball (club game cancelled) and went for a walk. Big sports day for all of us.
(click on ‘more’ for random thoughts)
In the biggest heavyweight fight since Rocky Balboa took on Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon, Wladimir Klitschko defeated David Haye in an easy 12 round unanimous decision with the scores of 117-109, 118-110 and 116-110. I had the fight 118-110 myself.
I know boxing is not what it used to be, especially in the heavyweight division, which is dominated (and has been for years) by two Ukranian brothers, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko. They are two unstoppable forces of nature (even more so than that Sandra Bullock/Ben Affleck movie) who are often criticised for their boring styles. No ear biting, no children eating — just staying far away and using their incredible height, weight and reach to clinically destroy opponents like doctors (and Vitali actually has a PhD, so he is a doctor).
They are the two best heavyweights in the world but the Klitschkos will never face each other in the ring because…well, they are siblings and they love each other (maybe not like Angelina Jolie and her brother, but nevertheless). And they promised their dying mother that they never will. Makes sense to me. This isn’t lawn bowls — boxing requires people to bash each other’s faces in.
Enter British loudmouth David Haye, a former cruiserweight with a former record of 25-1 (including 23 KOs), who had been calling out the Klitschkos for years, including wearing a T-shirt with him holding the decapitated heads of both brothers. This got the normally polite Ukranians angry and they tried to set up a fight with Haye, but Haybe kept ducking the brothers. Negotiations broke down several times and promises were broken for a variety of dubious reasons from Haye, who seemed perfectly content to continue shouting insults from a safe distance.
Eventually, a contract was signed to fight younger brother Wladimir (35), who Haye (30) considered the better bet because Wladimir had been vulnerable to big punchers in the past (though not since 2005).
Wladimir (entering the fight with a 55-3 record) is 6’6.5″ and 243 pounds and is probably best known for his dalliance with 5’1″ Hayden Panettiere, the little cheerleader from Heroes (‘We find a way’, she said of their bedroom encounters). Haye is considerably smaller at 6’3″ and 213 pounds, but that did not stop him from promising a brutal execution of the Ukranian. According to Haye before the bout, he was in the best shape of his life and would expose Wladimir as a fraud.
Most experts predicted that Haye would come up short like Wladimir’s last 13 opponents, 11 of whom did not make the distance. However, thanks to a hoard of drunk British fans, the betting odds were not as one-sided as one would have thought.
As for the fight itself? It was kinda boring. Probably more exciting than a lot of Wladimir’s other fights, but still pretty boring if you’re used to watching Manny Pacquiao. Wlad did what he always did, keep his opponent at bay with the jab, backing him up into the ropes for his big right hand, and take steps back whenever Haye tried to launch one of his ‘Hayemakers’ (so lame).
Haye? He was crap. Not as pathetic as say ESPN writer Dan Rafael made him out to be (I read this article before I watched the fight in full, and I think it was a little over the top), but he hardly did anything all night. He just kept moving around to make it hard(er) for Wlad to land his jab, launched the occasional telegraphed bomb (only a couple landed), complained to the ref about everything and nothing, and flopped to the floor whenever Wlad touched him in a clinch or put his glove on the back of Haye’s head. Seriously, I had never seen anyone fall to the canvas as much as Haye did, and none of them were the result of a punch!
The ref initially fell for Haye’s antics and deducted a point from Klitschko in the 7th round, but when Haye kept trying to flop his way to a few extra points he got what he deserved when the ref ruled one of his flops as a knockdown in the 11th round. Granted, the ref should have deducted a point instead of ruling it a knockdown when it clearly wasn’t, but by then it hardly made much of a difference.
The fight stats told much of the story. Klitschko landed 134/509 punches (26%) while Haye landed 72/290 (25%). That’s over 36 minutes and 12 rounds. That’s a lot of time and not a lot of punches thrown or landed by David Haye.
It was disappointing that, after so much talk, Haye did not back up his words. Anyone can talk big and be a jerk before the event, but as long as you back it up, people forget about it (eg, Jason Terry in the recent NBA Finals). When you put in a stinker, you must suffer the consequences.
The most entertaining thing about the entire fight was what happened after it. Having talked himself up like a freaking Trojan in the lead up to the fight, Haye was supposed to be eating humble pie after the humiliating defeat and giving props to the man he had insulted for the last 3 years. Instead, the first thing Haye did was pop his shoe and sock off to provide Exhibit A, a close up camera shot of his broken pinky toe.
According to Haye, he had broken this pinky toe 3 weeks ago and because of that he could not push off to land his ‘Hayemakers’. To be fair, Haye did give credit to Klitschko in subsequent interviews and on Twitter, but the damage had already been done.
As though he had not disgraced himself enough before and during the fight, Haye was now coming off as a sore loser who seemed to have his excuses prepared well in advance. I’m no sports doctor, but I’ve never heard of a boxer who pushes off with their little pinky toe. As former Brit boxer Lennox Lewis (and Celebrity Apprentice contestant) said, ‘Big fights like that. Toe, broken leg, hurt arm — you forget about all that. There’s too much adrenaline going and it’s just forgotten about.’ And Haye even had a painkilling injection before the fight. Genuine fight-changing injury? A sore loser’s excuses? A reflection of Haye’s true character? You be the judge.
In interviews following the fight, Haye (who made 50% of the 20 million pound purse plus more from PPV revenue) asked for a rematch. Rematches are given for close fights, exciting fights, unexpected knockouts or stoppages. Not when the favourite expectedly beats his outclassed opponent easily in a relatively boring fight. But then again, if I could have another shot at 10 million pounds, I’d try and make my case too.
The Klitschkos did hint that Haye might get another shot, but this time against big brother Vitali (who is even bigger than Wlad at around 6’8″), who would love to finish the job his brother started. However, Haye’s camp voiced pessimism because the negotiations would now no longer have ‘parity’ since Haye lost against Wlad and would be staring at a ‘slave contract‘. Would that be 2 million, 3 million? If so, sign me up for some slave labour.
I like both players, so it was a win-win situation for me. I was perhaps rooting for Rafa a little more (because I want him to inch closer to Federer) but I was also a fan of Nole’s intensity and cocky attitude, which I believed added a bit more spice to the men’s tour.
In the end, Nole proved in devastating fashion that he is the best tennis player in the world right now. Having already secured the number one ranking from Nadal, Nole went out in the final and blasted his way to a 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 win for his first Wimbledon title and third grand slam overall (the others being his two Aussie open trophies from 2008 and 2011). Oh, and he improved to 48-1 for the year, an insane feat.
My tennis aficionado friend had been rooting for the Djoker (after Murray bowed out again) but feared Nadal would get him in the final. Even though Nole had beaten Rafa 4 times straight this year (2 on hard court, 2 on clay) leading into the final, my friend thought Nadal would raise his game like Federer did when he gave Nole his only loss this year in the French Open.
Not to be. Nadal looked mentally defeated out there and admitted so after the match.
‘When one player beat you five times, because today my game don’t bother him a lot,” he said, unwedging his undies. “Probably, the mental part is little bit dangerous for me, [no?].” (I added that last word in, force of habit).
Tennis just keeps churning out these great story lines. When Pete Sampras retired with 14 slams just about everyone proclaimed him the greatest of all time and suggested it would be a very long time before anyone challenged that record.
Then along comes Roger Federer who began blitzing the field and seemed poised to overtake Sampras — and just when he was about to get there Nadal comes out and starts winning not only on grass but also on clay. Eventually Federer not only matches Sampras at the French Open (the one year Nadal didn’t win) but then exceeds him at Wimbledon, then adds his 16th at the Australian Open the year after. But could Federer be the GOAT with a fairly one-sided losing record (17-8, including 6-2 in Grand Slam finals) against Nadal?
This question became a lot more interesting after Nadal reeled off 3 straight Grand Slams after Federer’s 16th slam, then added this year’s French Open to raise his GS total to 10. At just 25 and seemingly unstoppable, was it only a matter of time before Nadal equalled or exceeded Federer?
But now, another spanner has been thrown into the mix. After many years of playing second fiddle to Federer and Nadal, Djokovic has asserted himself as the man to beat. With 3 slams overall and 2 this year, who’s to say Nole won’t start reeling off a stack of trophies himself in the next few years?