• Steve Bunce

Chasing a payday? At least Haye's chasing a fight

Steve Bunce April 2, 2013
Like the very best event boxers, David Haye is rarely caught short for a soundbite © Getty Images

I love the idea that David Haye has come back to the ring on a mission. You're right David, it is a mission - to make a lot of money by fighting Vitali or Wladimir Klitschko next year. But those boxing 'purists' making out that the 32-year-old's return from retirement is a disaster for the heavyweight division are barking up the wrong tree.

Like many Haye fights from years gone by, this already has a 'homecoming' feel about it. It's not a homecoming - he hasn't been anywhere, except the jungle! But I don't see the fans standing back, saying "I'm not going to buy a ticket unless he fights Kubrat Pulev". People are on the phone to their pals saying "David Haye's fighting in Manchester on June 29 - let's get some tickets, we'll all go, get a couple of hotel rooms..."

The purists need to realise that the majority of the 18,000 in the arena that night will be there for a David Haye event, not a boxing match. They won't be ones sitting at home, saying "not even going to watch it - not unless he's fighting that brilliant Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, or Robert Helenius or Odlandier Solis". That's garbage. David Haye is an event boxer, whether you like it or not - and he's still chasing that main event.

It seems to me that Haye and the Klitschkos have got a real problem with each other. At first I thought it was quite entertaining, but that was a long time ago - you've got to go back to 2008 for when they started clashing, it's been going on for five years. There was talk of fights back then, and in 2009 fights were signed that never happened.

These three have been sniping at each other, literally squaring up to each other - Vitali removed David from a restaurant back in 2008 when David arrived with a picture of himself holding up the picture of Wladimir's severed head. Vitali didn't take too kindly to that and manhandled David, who laughed it off - because that's what David does, he's good at winding people up.

David Haye made light work of Dereck Chisora, who took Vitali Klitschko the distance © PA Photos

We've bought into the Haye-Klitschko history here in the UK - but this is nothing compared to the Germans. It has made him a superstar over there. The Klitschkos are obviously enormous stars, capable of winning 60% of the TV audience when they box. The country stops for Vitali and Wladimir, no matter who they fight - but when they fight and Haye is in town it just goes ballistic.

What's more, he's not the villain of the piece. I've been in Germany with David twice, once when he fought Nikolai Valuev, and once when he was working as part of the commentary team for the Dereck Chisora-Vitali Klitschko fight. I watched the Germans around him. They don't hate him, they love him - whether you like him or not he's a character, and he's massive out there.

All of this incessant talk is building to what will be in 2014 possibly the richest fight to ever take place in Europe: Haye versus Klitschko.

I spoke to Adam Booth on this weeks' podcast and the opponent for his first fight back will be formally announced in two weeks, when they come back from a warm-weather training camp in northern Cyprus. My gut feeling is that Manuel Charr ticks a lot of boxes. First, he's affordable; second, he's credible, in the sense that he has fought Vitali Klitschko for the world title in the past; and third, he's a good talker.

The place will be sold out irrespective of who he fights, but Charr would add a bit to the occasion with that lip of his - along with the fact he's a good enough fighter, if not great. In the heavyweight heyday of the 1970s Charr wouldn't even class as a sparring partner. So what? We can't keep living in the past. Right now, Manny Charr is a B-list heavyweight, which makes him the perfect opponent for David Haye's comeback bout.

Now, back to this idea that Haye's return is bad for the sport. First of all, there's nothing wrong with heavyweight boxing. You could take the Klitschkos back to any era and they'd be good fighters. Guys like Haye might not have beaten the greatest fighters in other eras, but they'd be in fights with them. And as for contenders, young guys like Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury and David Price are as good as any.

But here's the thing. Take the three fighters holding versions of the world titles, and perhaps David Haye, out of the equation, and you're left with a group of around 20 boxers at the moment who simply need to fight each other. We have the bizarre situation at the moment where five British heavyweights are ranked inside the top 15 of either the WBC, IBF, WBA or WBO - some as high as three, four or five - and not a single one has beaten a fellow top-15-ranked heavyweight, across any of the organisations.

This is an absurd state of affairs. If we had been in this situation 20 years ago, a younger Don King or Bob Arum would have grabbed the lot of them by the scruff of the neck and organised four nights of boxing around the world - one in London, one in Berlin, two in America. On each night they would have held four heavyweight fights - 32 guys in the ring, problem solved. King would have called it the World Championship Competiton, and while the Klitschkos carry on fighting Polish, Lebanese and Italian geezers the rest of the heavyweight division gets trimmed down to 16 contenders, then to eight, to four, to two...

King and Arum are in their eighties now. They've made their billions out of boxing and haven't got the energy any more. But that's what they would have done a few years ago - and that would go a long way to restoring the credibility of the heavyweight division. If the heavyweight division has credibility, boxing has credibility. That is sure as eggs are eggs.

Make sure that you listen to Adam Booth talking about the 'glint' in Haye's eye and also David Price on the revenge mission that keeps him awake at night, all on Buncey's Boxing Podcast, out now. Until next week - Adios.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.