The biggest all-British heavyweight showdown of the last decade has been postponed after former WBA champion David Haye (26-2, 24 KOs) suffered a deep cut above his eye during sparring a week out from his eagerly-awaited clash with Tyson Fury (21-0, 15 KOs) in Manchester.
It is the second fight in a row that the ‘Hayemaker’ has had to postpone because of injury, after his scheduled bout with Syrian contender Manuel Charr (24-1, 14 KOs) was called off in June this year when he picked up a hand injury in his Lambeth gym.
Haye hasn’t fought since knocking out countryman Dereck Chisora in the fifth round last July. Since that dramatic night at Upton Park Chisora (18-4, 12 KOs) has chalked up three victories and picked up the European title on September 21 with a fifth round stoppage of Germany’s Edmund Gerber at the Copper Box in London.
The cancellation of the heavily-hyped bout represents a huge blow to Haye from both a professional and a financial perspective. The Bermondsey bomber – who needed six stitches on the deep cut above his left eyebrow – is still one of the biggest names in the heavyweight division and was hoping an eye-catching win against his countryman would put his name in the conversation for a rematch with unified champion Wladimir Klitschko early next year. It will also hit the Londoner hard in the pocket as he misses out on a sizeable purse and a cut of the Sky Box Office proceeds. The 20,000 capacity venue reportedly sold out in 24 hours, proving that Haye is still a huge draw in his native country.
Unbeaten Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev (18-0, 9 KOs) now appears to be at the front of the queue for a lucrative bout with one of the Ukranian giants after outpointing American veteran Tony Thompson in an IBF title eliminator last month. Wladimir defends his titles against paper titlist Alexander Povetkin in Moscow on October 5, and both Haye and Fury were hoping to make a statement at the Manchester Arena on Saturday that could not be easily ignored by the Ukrainians’ handlers.
Breaking bad news
Haye took to Twitter to explain his side of the story, breaking the news to his followers with the words: “This is the worst tweet I’ve ever had send. I’m so sorry everyone.”
The statement on the former undisputed cruiserweight champion’s website read: “Hayemaker Boxing regret to inform that David Haye has been forced to postpone his September 28 bout with Tyson Fury due to a deep cut suffered during the final spar of training camp.”
“The cut above his left eyebrow occurred in round two of sparring on Friday night (September 19) and required six stitches by a plastic surgeon at St. Thomas’ hospital. Because of the gravity of the cut, these stitches will now remain in place for five to seven days.
“Unfortunately, after being properly assessed, Haye was left with no choice but to postpone his fight with Fury, scheduled for next Saturday night in Manchester. He is currently waiting on further medical assessment to determine the extent of the postponement.”
On the floor
To his credit, Haye also acknowledged how his decision to withdraw so close to fight night would affect his opponent. “Gutted isn’t even the word,” said the 32-year-old. “Mentally, I’m on the floor at the moment. I’m devastated most of all for my loyal fans, my family and my team, as well as Tyson Fury and his team.
“I know injuries and cuts are part and parcel of our sport, but this doesn’t change the feeling of disappointment and sadness I’m experiencing right now. To everyone who has bought tickets, booked hotels, and followed this fight since it was announced, there is absolutely nothing I can do except apologise from the very bottom of my heart.
“Even when everything seems to be right on track, sometimes life throws you a curveball. I will somehow have to try and make the best of this horrible situation. But, right now, I’m in bits about what has happened.”
However, Fury and his team were not so charitable, with the outspoken Mancunian also taking to Twitter to have his say on the postponement.
“Sorry for every1 who bought tickets & hotels. Haye excuses r boring. He don’t want to fight me!,” Fury suggested.
Meanwhile, Fury’s promoter Mick Hennessey questioned why Haye would risk sparring so close to the event, but hinted that he was in favour of rescheduling rather than going in another direction.
“Tyson and his uncle Peter [Fury’s trainer] are very upset, annoyed and frustrated,” Hennessy said. “Tyson would not have been sparring a week from the event, so close to the fight. We wouldn’t have taken the risk. If he was sparring without a headguard, that is beyond belief at this stage. That wouldn’t have happened with Tyson.
“Tyson would not cancel a fight under any circumstances. We’d have to drag him out it. We are looking at all the variables, the dust needs to settle, we are trying to cover every option. I believe this fight should happen. We genuinely believed Tyson was going to do a major job on Haye, and then go on and fight for the world title.”
Haye and Fury remain polarising figures among fans of the sweet science, but love them or hate them, this intriguing clash between the powerful veteran and the young, unbeaten contender had captured the wider public’s attention and is a big loss from the boxing schedule after a bumper 2013. Both men have charisma by the bucketload and can talk trash with the best of them. But inside the ring this promised to be a fascinating clash of styles and real pick ’em fight.
Haye, with his explosive power and unmatched speed, was favoured by some to do a number on Fury in the early rounds, particularly as Fury has been knocked down by the comparatively light-hitting Neven Pajkic and Steve Cunningham during his professional career. Indeed, Haye himself had predicted that Fury would not make it past the second session.
However, a rival school of thought reasoned that the 6ft 9in Fury would be able to use his considerable size and reach advantage to frustrate Haye and wear him down in the later rounds. The 25-year-old is not short of confidence and has shown marked improvement from a technical standpoint since he infamously punched himself in the face against journeyman Lee Swaby in his fourth paid bout. Fury put his size and weight advantage to good use against former cruiserweight champion Cunningham (25-6, 12 KOs) last time out, and has shown he is not short of power himself with 15 knockouts from 21 victories.
The heavyweight scene has fallen on hard times in recent years and a fight between David Haye and Tyson Fury, two of the most gifted and controversial big men in the sport today, would have given boxing’s former glamour division a much-needed shot in the arm. Here’s hoping it is quickly rescheduled and the big-mouthed Brits can finally do their talking in the ring.
Knockoutpunch prediction: Haye by KO
UPDATE: The fight has now been rescheduled for February 8, 2014.