Sunday, July 3, 2011

Notes from Klitschko-Haye

  • When preparing the preview for Klitschko-Haye, I kept thinking about how David Haye's trainer, Adam Booth, fancies himself as some kind of elite tactician.  With that knowledge, what strategic mastermind wants to win by sheer brute force or will?  No, that would be too simple and certainly not cerebral enough.  Instead, Booth was looking for that one edge – that perfect tactic that would enable his fighter to fell the giant.  Booth and Haye settled on the left hook-right hand combination.  More often than not, Haye would feint with the hook and immediately throw the looping right over the top.  

  • Unfortunately for Haye and Booth, Wladimir Klitschko had his own master strategist working his corner: Emanuel Steward.  Steward had Klitschko 100% prepared for this combination.  When Haye would throw his left hook, Klitschko would immediately raise his left arm almost above his head to block the incoming right hand.  He knew what Haye was going to do before Haye did.  As a result, Haye didn't land more than a dozen, good right hands throughout the fight.  

  • It didn't look as if Haye/Booth had a Plan B if this combination failed to hit the mark.  The U.S. feed of the match was unable to pick up the audio of Haye's corner between rounds, but it didn't seem like Team Haye really tried anything radically different throughout the course of the fight, with the exception of a few jabs in the final rounds. 

  • The failure of Haye's performance, of course, falls to the fighter, but blame must be assigned to Booth as well.  Why didn't Haye double up the hook?  Why didn't he just dig the hook to the body if Klitschko's primary defense was aimed toward neutralizing the right hand?  Great fighters are two-handed.  Haye demonstrated tonight that he does not have the confidence to win meaningful fights with his left hand.  I don't know what Booth's instructions were in the corner but the lack of variety in Haye's attack was stunning.

  • There are only two ways to beat Wladimir Klitschko.  1. Land something so severe that he can't recover.  2.  Walk through fire and hope that he tires himself out.  That's it.  There is no third, fourth or fifth option.  For the current batch of heavyweights, there is no magic combination of cunning, movement and diversion that will allow for a points victory over Klitschko.  His physical dimensions, skill, power and intelligence are too good for that kind of loss to occur. 

  • Almost all of Klitschko's opponents try to defeat him using the first option.  However, very few of Klitschko's opponents possess the raw power to affect him.  Also, Klitschko's defense has improved dramatically under Steward's tutelage.  He has become very hard to hit cleanly.   

  • Hardly any fighters, with the exceptions of Lamon Brewster, Ross Puritty and Chris Byrd, try to defeat Klitschko the second way.  Byrd's knockout loss is the typical result of employing this strategy.  Brewster's trainer in his victorious first fight against Klitschko was Jesse Reid, who is not a master tactician, but perhaps the best motivator in the sport.  Brewster bought into Reid's plan to bully the bully.  He had to endure intense fire for his opportunity to score the knockout.

  • Most sane fighters instinctively look for a healthier way to ply their trade than Brewster's approach to beating Wladimir Klitschko.  Their reticence to fight in that style is understandable.  Who wants to be hit repeatedly by right hands from a knockout artist?  But, Brewster revealed a pathway for victory.  Fighting Wladimir Klitschko with an ordinary game plan does not suffice.  In his rematch against Klitschko, without Reid, Brewster was unwilling to subject himself to the same type of punishment.  The subsequent blowout loss was predictable.    

  • Booth knew that his fighter most likely lacked the chin and, more importantly, the will to engage in that kind of combat.  Haye, similar to almost every other fighter that has faced the Klitschkos during their title reigns, refused to fight toe-to-toe.  Without possessing the physical dimensions of a Lennox Lewis or a Riddick Bowe, there is no way to effectively outpoint the Klitschkos.  So, Haye lives to fight another day, but he lost fans with his uninspired performance and his legacy took a massive hit with his inability to back up his aggressive words with corresponding action (or even risk-taking) in the ring.                 

  • Yes.  Klitschko can sometimes fight without passion or urgency.  But consider this: he thoroughly dominated a fellow titleholder who, on paper, was the best potential opponent in the division.  Klitschko won at a minimum 8 rounds, and more probably 9 or 10.  Klitschko engaged in his typical fight.  He was cautious in the first few rounds, looking to establish his jab.  As the fight progressed, he incorporated his straight right hand and his left hook into his attack.  The fact that he made Haye look so ordinary is, in fact, quite an achievement.

  • Klitschko should have used his left hook more.  It can be quite a weapon in it of itself but it also can be used to keep opponents from escaping to his left side, further away from his right hands.  Tonight was not Klitschko at his most accurate, especially with the right hand, but, even with his imprecision, he was able to thoroughly outclass Haye. 

  • Klitschko is almost pathologically unwilling to throw body shots.  By the 11th round, he had not landed a single punch downstairs and I don't think he even attempted any.  It's almost embarrassing for an Olympic gold medallist and the heavyweight champion of the world to ignore body punching.  However, Emanuel Steward preaches that his tall fighters keep their height, and he probably knows that Klitschko is not confident enough to go to the body with any regularity.  Nitpicking aside, ultimately Klitschko has proven that he does not need to land body shots to dominate the division. 

  • Roy Jones made a great point at the end of the U.S. telecast in regards to Haye's broken toe.  Haye either had to ignore the pain of the toe or cancel the fight.  In his post-fight comments, Haye tried to have it both ways.  However, you're either too hurt to fight or you set the injury aside.  Haye's complaints about his injury sounded like nothing more than an excuse.  

  • It was also nice to hear Jones pay a compliment to his rival Bernard Hopkins.  When Jim Lampley suggested that Klitschko, at 35, might be nearing the end of his physical peak, Jones chimed in that Hopkins is still going strong at 46.  The relationship between Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins is complex. The two great middleweights/light heavyweights of their era have fought in and out of the ring for nearly two decades.  They have squabbled over money, legacy, status and talent. 

  • However, in unguarded moments, the respect between the two is apparent.  Jones was visibly saddened when Jermain Taylor was awarded the decision in his second fight with Hopkins.  Likewise, Hopkins has acknowledged that Jones was the better fighter in their first encounter.  To get a proud warrior like Hopkins to admit his inferiority is nothing short of miraculous. 

  • In a perfect world, there would be a fascinating book about the careers of Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones and their tricky relationship, similar to the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson publication.  However, with boxing often relegated to an "other" sport in the U.S., the mass market for such a work is not easily apparent.  Instead, those off-handed comments of gratitude and support will be the public's only opportunity to gain a further understanding of this unique relationship between two of the best fighters of this era. 

  • I bet in another ten years, with their ring adventures further behind them, they will become close friends. 

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1 comment:

  1. I will never forget how an overweight out of shape Corrie Sanders totally destroyed Klitschko by jumping on him early with fast powerful left hands. Of course you have to be willing to take punches and empty the gas tank early. Against great fighters you have to risk it all early via Hagler vs Hearns. I just don`t see any heavyweights today with that intensity!