The hunt for a top-10 opponent, as demanded by his contract with British broadcaster Setanta, is proving harder than expected for aspiring puncher, promoter and profiteer David Haye. As reported previously, a ‘who was’ of heavyweight contenders has been name-checked, from Hasim Rahman, James Toney, Andrew Golota and Oleg Maskaev to speculative challenges from Matt Skelton, Tony Thompson, Eddie Chambers and 75 year-old Ray Mercer. A new name has been added to the roster of potential foes; Kevin Johnson. According to Dan Rafael at ESPN at least.
Rafael’s piece records most of the significant twists and turns of Haye’s pursuit of a credible opponent since he announced his intentions to move from Cruiserweight to the heavier class. During that time, most observers have forgotten how easily stocky 200lb Jean-Mark Mormeck was able to find Haye with overhand rights, and that the risk-taking Brit was floored by one flurry before stopping the Frenchman.
It is easy to do. Haye is charismatic, magnetic and in defeating Tomasz Bonin and Enzo Maccarinelli pretty much supersonic. He’s old-school and new-school in equal measure. Chasing down consensus champion Wladimir Klitschko on an elevating staircase in a move which more than echoed Ali’s taunting of Sonny Liston while simultaneously taking the brave, if not unprecedented step of self-promoting.
It is neither of those factors that fuel his popularity however, though both play their part, more central to Haye’s standing as a potential heavyweight saviour is his desire to rumble with the best in the division, if such a notion isn’t too much of an oxymoron for more informed sensibilities, without a prolonged ‘apprenticeship’ at the weight.
“…unlike some other recent Klitschko challengers, I bring three key ingredients to the table – ambition, punch power and a six-pack.”
Rafael affords Haye respect within in his piece but cannot resist slipping a stiletto beneath the ribs in summarising the reasons for Johnson’s entry into the running as a potential foe.
“But now Haye has come calling, most likely because Johnson is not a big puncher and Haye’s chin has shown vulnerability.”
Dan Rafael, ESPN
Rafael is a writer and opinion for which I have great respect and the comments, in isolation and with Haye’s vulnerabilities – exemplified in fights with Lolenga Mock, Carl Thompson and Mormeck – considered, seem entirely reasonable. Until coupled with Rafael’s own preceding paragraph which made it plain offers to Oleg Maskaev and Andrew Golota had both been made but to no avail. I fail to see how anyone could throw Maskaev – who once punched Hasim Rahman clean through the ropes and on to a ring-official’s table – onto the pile marked ‘non-puncher’.
Haye may be many things, he may prove to be chinny among the big-men, but I have to take issue with writers questioning his motives or courage. If Johnson gets the nod it will lack the zing, for the public, of a Rahman or Golota, but will still represent an enthralling fixture between two hungry, young heavyweights.
And isn’t that, following 5 years of stagnant, status quo, what we all want?