On Saturday, July 2nd, British WBA Heavyweight champion David Haye will face the toughest opponent of his career in IBF and WBO champ, Wladimir Klitschko. Here’s what to look for in their fight.
Haye is giving up 2 inches in height, and 3 inches in reach so he will have to do what any shorter fighter must do against a taller opponent: slip the jab, weave inside, and stay there and work the body. Haye has some power, but punching up against a taller opponent like Klitschko takes away some of that power. Look for Haye to try to chop down the mighty Wlad with hooks to the ribs. Headhunting will be dangerous for him as it will be tough to get through Klitschko’s upright, Eastern European style of defense. If he digs to the body and stays inside, he’ll take away Klitschko’s most effective punches, namely his 1-2 jab-straight right and slow the Ukrainian-born champion down. If he doesn’t, he’s going to find it hard to keep his back off the canvass.
If he softens Klitschko up with body shots, Haye is going to need to look to keep out of Klitschko’s clutches as he darts inside. It will take an impressive display of footwork, but as the lighter, quicker fighter, Haye should be able to weave in and out fairly easily. If he gets clinched, he’ll have a tough time hurting Klitschko and will be separated back into the range of Klitschko’s jab, which is exactly where he doesn’t want to be.
This is not the same Wladimir Klitschko who stepped into the ring with Lamon Brewster in 2004 and was knocked out after being extremely winded in the first round and let a shorter fighter pound him into the canvass. The Wladimir Klitschko who fights Saturday night, is a well-prepared, well-trained boxing machine (trained, in fact, by Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, Emmanuel Steward) with what may be the best 1-2 combination in boxing. His jab is stunningly hard and splits his opponents guard and is followed up immediately by a brain-scrambling straight right hand. It is wicked. Look for Klitschko to fight like a tall fighter should, and keep Haye at bay with his jab and use it to set up the right hand bombs he’s known for.
He’ll also have to stay tall on defense, but as staying straight upright is his natural style, with his almost mummy like defense (as opposed to the American, bob, crouch and weave with your hands on your chin) this shouldn’t be an issue for him. If Haye is able to slip inside, Klitschko will clinch him, taking away Haye’s power, and when the referee separates them, go right back to the jab. If he doesn’t, he’s going to have some sore ribs in the morning.
In terms of overall skill, Klitschko is right now at the peak of his career and has the advantage there. Both fighters have heart, but Haye has the advantage here as evidenced by his major decision win over Nikolai Valuev in only his second Heavyweight fight (Haye started as a cruiserweight). Both fighters have had their chins called into question, both have been knocked out, and at the same time both have survived some shots that would have wilted lesser men, so in that regard I’d say they are relatively even.
But on Saturday, the bigger man will win. He is a bigger man who knows how to fight like a bigger man (for comparison, see Michael Grant, a giant monster who was absolutely trounced by Tomasz Adamek, even though Adamek was giving up 10 inches in reach) and will use his considerable skill and his deadly 1-2 straight punches to defeat the very game Brit.
Klitschko knocks out Haye in the 9th.