Can David's Hayemaker slay hairy Goliath?

SOME sporting events capture the imagination simply because of the spectacle on offer, perhaps more so than the competition itself.

By Mark Heath

“I CONSIDER him more a circus freak show that happens to be boxing.

“He's an ugly type of fighter, he tries to lean on you, tries to brawl and comes out with a really hairy chest that gets matted and is disgusting.

“The size I am, I sort of come up to his chest and apparently the word around the campfire is that he doesn't smell too sweet.


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“Hopefully he runs a cold tap over himself or someone hoses him down outside before he comes in.” - David Haye

SOME sporting events capture the imagination simply because of the spectacle on offer, perhaps more so than the competition itself.

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David Haye versus Nikolay Valuev is one such event.

There is no doubt that many who watch tonight's WBA heavyweight championship bout will do so not because they are boxing fans, but because the mesmeric sight of the almost mythically gigantic Valuev fighting is too good to miss.

It has been promoted as 'David versus Goliath', and the storybook angle is certainly compelling - it's not often you get to see a would-be hero attempt to slay a modern-day giant.

No small man himself at 6ft 3ins and a chiselled 15 stone plus change, Haye will be nonetheless be dwarfed in the ring by the 'Beast from the East', who stands over 7ft tall and tips the scales in the region of 23 stone.

But to dismiss this fight as a purely voyeuristic collision between a large muscular man and a humungous hairy one would be a mistake.

For it evokes memories of some of boxing's most legendary match-ups, where skill and speed trumped formidable size and an intimidating aura.

Think Jess Willard-Jack Dempsey, Primo Carnera-Max Baer and even Muhammad Ali-George Foreman in the famed Rumble in the Jungle, by coincidence 35 years ago this week.

On each occasion mentioned above an unfancied challenger defeated a much-larger champion, igniting a fire under the sport which burned bright and attracted fans both new and old.

And once again, boxing needs a hero, an icon. As I wrote a few weeks back, the sport is ailing.

Britain's Haye is a potential saviour. Charismatic, good-looking and undeniably exciting to watch, he never ducks a challenge and is also not averse to hyping a fight with a spot of verbal sparring (see above).

So will he win? Well, if this was a battle of skill, there is no doubt that the Londoner (22-1, 21KO) would emerge victorious - and quickly.

But there is the small - or one should say large - matter of Valuev's immense size to contend with.

The hirsute Russian behemoth (50-1, 34KO) is far, far bigger than anyone ex-cruiserweight champion Haye has ever fought and he tends to wear down opponents with that unique weapon before dispatching their exhausted corpse with an accumulation of punches.

Having a monster like Valuev holding and leaning on you - while smothering you with his apparently pungent body hair - is not a pleasant proposition.

Yet Haye presents an entirely different and more skilled challenge than any which Valuev has faced before, a combination of blurring speed and destructive power which could well be the Russian's worst nightmare.

As long as Haye uses those advantages, of course. He has talked in the build-up to the fight of looking for a quick knockout, of becoming the first to stop the gargantuan champion.

For me, that would be a mistake. Trading blows with a man whose punch must feel like getting battered with a sodden bull elephant is surely the route to defeat, especially for a fighter with questionable whiskers like Haye. Stick and move David, stick and move.

Now we come to prediction time. It must be stressed that your author has not entirely distinguished himself in this area, but after last week's Nostradamus-like foreseeing of Ipswich Town's first win, I hope to carry on riding the wave.

I'll take Haye by a close points decision - and then go double or quits on him claiming the title of Sports Personality of the Year.

Right, I'm off to check the odds on that double whammy. Enjoy the fight.

n Follow me on Twitter at mark__heath and send some abuse my way on my blog, Playing the Links, at www.greenun24.co.uk

- You can watch the Haye-Valuev fight, live from Nuremburg, on Sky Sports Box Office channel 743 from 8pm tonight.

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