Five things we learned from Wladimir Klitschko's unanimous-decision victory over David Haye on Saturday at Hamburg's Imtech Arena.
1. It was a dismal night for the heavyweight class. Boxing's bellwether division just can't catch a break. Klitschko-Haye had long been regarded as a panacea for a weight class that's plummeted almost inconceivably in prestige since Lennox Lewis retired. Say nothing of the stakes, which were ample; these were two heavyweights with cruiserweight jaws. Fireworks were expected. Instead, a super-size showdown three years in the making ended not with a bang but a whimper, the ringside judges returning scores of 117-109, 118-108 and 116-110 for Klitschko (SI.com had it 116-110). No changing of the guard. No career-defining statement. Just the latest in a long line of underwhelming title fights in a division that's alienated all but the most hardcore American boxing fans.
2. Haye didn't come to win. Ever since he wore the severed heads of the Klitschko brothers on a T-shirt in 2008, the charismatic Haye swore he'd depose the brothers and bring a new energy to the division. The trash talk flowed throughout the build-up to Saturday's fight, Haye giving it worse than he got it, dismissing the 35-year-old Klitschko as "the most boring heavyweight in history" and promising a sixth-round knockout. To his credit, all that bluster earned the London native a 50-50 split of all match revenue. But shortly after Haye emerged for his ring walk (seven minutes late, it should be noted), it was apparent he wasn't up for the enormity of the moment. He looked nervous during a long approach to the ring at the 45,000-seat outdoor soccer stadium as bodyguards struggled to clear the way. Then the bell rang. And once Haye realized he couldn't crack the code, he stopped trying. He threw just 24 punches per round (compared to 42 for Klitschko), and was never able to deviate from his strategy of feinting with the left to set up a lunging right. He landed six punches in the fifth, six in the sixth, seven in the seventh, four in the eighth, five in the ninth and one in the 10th. It was a negative performance from a fighter once fancied as the division's savior, now destined to be remembered as another false prophet. But hey, as long as the check clears.
3. Klitschko didn't mess with the formula. It's hard to knock Klitschko for doing exactly what he needed to do, particularly against an opponent who seemed hell-bent on disrupting his composure and making him "fight angry." He clearly did his homework on Haye, adroitly rebuffing every attempt to bring the fight inside, making full use of his advantages in height (three inches), weight (30 pounds) and reach (three inches). This was vintage Klitschko. He parried and picked off punches, sapping Haye's will. Even when the jab was ineffective throughout the first half of the fight, he never stopped measuring, probing, calculating, keeping his opponent on the back foot. By the end, 105 of his 134 landed punches were jabs. But Klitschko was keenly aware of what he stood to gain from a spectacular result, and he expressed disappointment in failing to get the knockout. "I wish I could have knocked him out impressively," Klitschko said. "I was expecting more of a challenge in the ring, more aggression."
4. Haye's performance grew more cynical with each passing round. Haye's best opportunity came early on. After Klitschko nicked the first two rounds in a cagey, tactical opening, Haye won the third by scoring with the overhand right. Emboldened, he taunted Klitschko, dropping both hands to his belt while urging him: "Come on!" Klitschko's body language was not good -- stoic, anxious -- and a trickle of blood ran down his left cheek. But early in the fifth, Klitschko feinted with the left and snapped Haye's head back with a concussive right -- the best punch of the fight. Haye stayed on his feet, impressively, but didn't win another round until desperation necessitated action in the 12th. More disappointing was Haye's habit of crumbling to the canvas upon the slightest incidental contact from Klitschko, not unlike a striker flopping in the penalty area. Even the estimated 15,000 English fans -- who made Imtech Arena feel like Wembley East early on -- rained boos on Haye's inactivity in the later rounds. But Haye's most dubious moment came after the final bell, when he offered up the alibi of a broken pinkie toe on his right foot suffered during training. (Even tweeting a photo of the toe in question shortly after.) All in all, an ignoble end to a spurious title reign. Let's just say Haye won't be shortlisted for BBC Sports Personality of the Year anytime soon.
5. The Klitschkos made history ... but what's next? Lost amid Saturday's prevailing sense of disappointment: Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, already the first brothers to hold pieces of the long-fractured heavyweight championship simultaneously, now possess all of the major sanctioning-body titles. Wladimir (making his 10th title defense) added Haye's WBA strap to his IBO, IBF, WBO and Ring titles, while Vitali holds the WBC crown. Yes, they're boring. But so is glacial formation, plate tectonics and the process through which coal becomes diamond. And it seems awfully myopic to pin the alleged death of boxing on the heavyweight division when the Klitschkos are selling out soccer stadiums in Europe. (To wit: more than 200,000 paying customers have attended Wladimir's past four fights, an "irrelevance" stateside promoters would kill for.) But with Haye dispensed in such one-sided fashion and the horizon devoid of capable challengers, what compelling fights are left besides Klitschko-Klitschko?
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