Haye-Klitschko: Another Lewis-Tyson?

Wed, 29 Jun 09:52:00 2011

It's hardly a secret that David Haye's biggest assets are his speed and punching power. It is even less of a secret that Wladimir Klitschko's biggest asset is the asset of being big.

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The last seismic heavyweight bout saw a similar clash of attributes: the 6-feet-5 Lennox Lewis beat Mike Tyson, 5-feet-10 and once unstoppable.

Klitschko will hope that history repeats itself on Saturday, and that size really does matter.

After years of build-up it was in 2002 in Memphis, Tennessee, that the defending champion Lewis punched out a final chapter to that masterwork of pulp fiction, The Legend of Mike Tyson.

It was some legend, and even though Tyson was perhaps 14 years past his prime such sums were waged on him that his odds came down to 6/4, similar to those now offered on Haye.

Like Klitschko, Lewis was a tentative fighter who used a heat-seeking jab to keep his opponents at bay. He tended towards ruthless efficiency, even tedium, but had been unexpectedly knocked-out by Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman.

Tyson knew that his best chance was an early KO and he charged Lewis from the opening bell, looking for a way past the jab, and onto the chin.

Lewis stayed composed. Whenever Tyson threatened on the inside, Lewis used his size to tie him up, or simply back-peddled out of range.

Given that Klitschko now employs Lewis's trainer Manny Steward, it is no coincidence that he employs these same tactics.

One can only presume that Steward will be giving Klitschko similar advice to that which he gave Lewis after Tyson had won the first round:

"Don't fight the fight he wants you to fight. Take your time. Get to work with your jab."

Lewis did exactly that and gradually wore down the poorly-conditioned Tyson, who lasted as long as the eighth round only because of his undimmed fighting spirit. Lewis finally put him out of his misery with a now-famous right cross.

It is notable that the first punches that really stopped Tyson in his tracks were uppercuts, and that uppercuts are rarely part of Wladimir Klitschko's arsenal.

Klitschko does have the technical ability to throw uppercuts but he lacks the inclination to deviate from his systematic 'jab-jab-grab' style.

One imagines that Steward would like to see Wladimir unleash a few uppercuts against Haye, because they are the ideal punches to catch a smaller opponent when he tries to come inside.

Given the complaints from the Haye camp concerning Saturday's referee it is worth remembering that referee Eddie Cotton warned Lewis twice about holding in the second round, and deducted a point in the fourth when he adjudged that Lewis had pushed Tyson to the canvas.

Cotton intervened far more to stop holding than Wladimir has come to expect. However, even with a referee like Cotton the sanction of a point deduction rings a little hollow when a fight is not expected to go the distance.

As a last resort a referee could always disqualify a fighter for excessive holding but it is almost inconceivable that anyone would dare disqualify Klitschko, in Hamburg, for a tactic allowed so many times before,.

Although it is easy to dismiss this precedent because of Tyson's condition, it does demonstrate how quickly a fighter can become discouraged by the successful implementation of Steward's tactics. Tyson looked a beaten man by the end of the second round.

Haye would undoubtedly choose to look back to a different historical example, perhaps to 1934 when Max Baer stopped Primo Carnera, the Italian aptly dubbed 'The Ambling Alp.'

Even further back, an American icon was born in 1919 when Jack Dempsey unleashed a brutal three-round assault on 'Pottawatomie Giant' Jess Willard.

Dempsey fulfilled Haye's other big ambition by starring in Hollywood films but that career never quite took off and Dempsey would lose most of his money in the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Seventy four years later Tyson declared bankruptcy, proving that history does indeed repeat itself.

Unfortunately the problem remains of knowing which history will repeat itself on Saturday night.

James Garner / Eurosport

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