David Haye (l) faces off with Audley Harrison

By Johnny Walker

When WBA heavyweight champion David “Hayemaker” Haye enters the ring against fellow Brit Audley “A-Force” Harrison on Saturday in Manchester, it will be almost exactly two years since the Hayemaker landed with a loud splash in the heavyweight division, the former cruiserweight champ promising to shake things up in a way not seen since the arrival of Mike Tyson.

Haye contended that the recognized champions, brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, were ruining heavyweight boxing by “fighting bums” and dominating all the competition in such as way as to turn off the general sports fan who might otherwise give boxing a look-in.

Haye was going to change all that, he vowed. 

Since stopping American Monte Barrett in a sloppy fight, however, David Haye has utterly failed to make good on his loud and oft-repeated promise of heavyweight domination.  Instead, the last two years since that 2008 tilt have seen Haye fight infrequently (only once in 2009, with this Saturday’s fight being his second in 2010), but talk almost non-stop, taking a break from the trash-talking verbosity only when the Klitschkos are looking for their next opponents, when Haye falls uncharacteristically silent.

After pulling out of a signed fight with Wladimir with a highly dubious “back injury,” and then bailing on a fight with Vitali at the very last minute with the contracts ready to be signed, Haye undertook a 2009 scrap against Russian giant Nicolay Valuev, wherein he lifted Valuev’s lightly regarded WBA title (which rightly belonged to Ruslan Chagaev).  For all of Haye’s yapping about bringing excitement, this was one of the worst heavyweight title fights of recent times, making Wladimir Klitschko’s less-than-scintillating 2008 unification fight with the now-retired Sultan Ibragimov look like Ali-Frazier III.

Haye spent most of the fight running away from Valuev, who remarked later that he “didn’t know he was going to a track meet.”  Claiming that he hurt his hand early in the fight, Haye produced a far less compelling “win” (even UK-based Sky Sports analyst Jim Watt called the fight for Valuev) against the giant than did Chagaev when he handed Valuev his first loss and took his WBA title in 2007, and didn’t even look as good as the ancient Evander Holyfield did in losing to Valuev in 2008.

Haye, it seemed, was more talk than substance, at least as a heavyweight.

Since taking Valuev’s title, Haye has spent most of his time not in the ring, but in front of various reporter’s tape machines, antagonizing the Klitschko brothers.  His litany of excuses for ducking fights with the Ukrainians has become somewhat of a running joke among non-UK boxing fans (and even among the more discerning and objective of the Brits as well). 

“Slave contracts” supposedly on offer from the Klitschkos’ K-2 Productions is one excuse that Haye loves to return to again and again, even though he gave Sauerland Event and Don King Productions options on at least three of his fights in order to get the title shot at Valuev.  Haye supposedly abhors the idea of rematch clauses, but he still included one in the contract he gave to his next opponent, Audley Harrison.  

When offered a 50-50 worldwide split with no options and no rematch clauses to fight either Klitschko brother, Haye then argued about TV rights. 

Meanwhile, the Hayemaker’s first title defence was against the ageing John Ruiz, a battle-scarred veteran with one foot out the door who, embarrassingly for Haye, didn’t even bother to go to London to promote the fight.  Haye prevailed with a TKO stoppage, but Ruiz hit him hard and fairly easily, exposing flaws that the Klitschkos no doubt would exploit to more devastating effect. 

Ruiz promptly retired after the payday against the Hayemaker.

With the Klitschkos coming off of impressive destructions of their recent opponents, ex-champions Sam Peter (Wlad) and Shannon Briggs (Vitali), the Hayemaker is now under pressure to produce something similar in his next title defense.  Yet even if he destroys Harrison on Saturday, Haye is unlikely to impress the fans to whom he made such extravagant promises two years ago.

Audley Harrison, after all, is a running joke in his own country, a chronic underachiever nicknamed “A-Farce” and “Fraudley” in the British press. 

Haye has taken the easy path here — he hopes.  He is going to make good money, and hopefully put on a show against a fighter who has accomplished very little at all since winning a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics.  But even a destruction of Harrison isn’t going to placate boxing fans around the world who expected so much more of David Haye.  And a loss to Harrison would destroy Haye’s credibility entirely.

Haye versus Harrison, then, isn’t so much an international boxing event, but what Wladimir Klitschko more accurately called “the London championship,” a bout of mainly local interest. 

Or perhaps, given the beverage of choice in England, we might call it, “The Tempest in a Teacup.”