HAMBURG, Germany – The perception of the opponent was different. The hype was different. The result was the same.
Wladimir Klitschko dominated David Haye much as he has all his recent opponents, winning a one-sided decision and spoiling any hope of a competitive fight before about 50,000 on a rainy night at the Imtech Arena soccer stadium.
The fight was also devoid of any significant drama, which was another blow to those who expected heated pre-fight rhetoric to translate into action in the ring.
The most-compelling moments of the fight preceded the opening bell, during the introductions, when ring announcer Michael Buffer introduced the fighters amid a light show and great optimism.
Then, when the fight started, Klitschko started throwing his punishing jab and slowly but surely it became clear that Haye was like the rest.
Chants of “David Haye! David Haye! David Haye!” from the vociferous British fans gave way to “Boring Klitschko! Boring Klitschko! Boring Klitschko” and finally to relative silence.
The quick, athletic Briton was good enough defensively to survive. Klitschko admitted that he had trouble hitting him cleanly. Hence the lack of memorable moments.
However, Haye, like so many undersized and overmatched hopefuls before him, could do nothing offensively. He tried to get inside the jab but failed miserably. He threw lunging rights in attempt to hurt the bigger man – his only chance of winning — but rarely connected.
Nothing he tried worked. Sound familiar?
Klitschko didn’t make Haye his 50th knockout victim as he predicted he would, a disappointment given Haye’s incessant trash talking, but generous judges could’ve given him every round.
As it is Klitschko won the fight 117-109, 118-108 and 116-110, a world-class drubbing of an opponent deemed his best-possible challenger that gave the Klitschko family every major heavyweight title.
Klitshko (56-3, 49 knockouts) now holds the RING, IBF, WBA and WBO titles while Vitali Klitschko is the WBC beltholder.
“I didn’t accomplish my goal of getting my 50th knockout but I accomplished my goal of unifying the titles,” Klitschko said afterward.
Haye might be embarrassed after his pre-fight antics, which started with him wearing a T-shirt depicting himself holding the severed heads of the Klitschko brothers shortly before their first scheduled fight fell out and never ending.
The only clear-cut point he scored was the point deduction Klitschko received in the seventh round for pushing him face first to the canvas, which happened a number of times in the fight.
The former cruiserweight champion has nothing to be ashamed of, though. He has a lot of company.
“The first reason [I lost] was he had very good defense,” said Haye, who also blamed his futile effort on a broken toe on his right foot. “He moves back a lot. … There has to be respect.
“He fought the perfect fight tonight. He implemented the perfect game plan.”
Klitschko, at his peak at 35, proved again – in the 10th defense of his IBF title – that he is simply too big, too good and too smart for the heavyweights of today.
It seems his opponents have only one chance, a puncher’s chance, which means the odds of it happening are very remote. Someone someday probably will land a crazy shot that will hurt Klitschko and lead to an upset but, with his well-publicized setbacks deep in his past, that’s hard to imagine at the moment.
After all, Haye (25-2, 23 KOs) is a big puncher and couldn’t get it done. Who else is there?
Some observers will describe the fight on Saturday as bad for boxing, which might be the case.
Many were pulling for Haye because an upset would’ve shaken up an all-too-predictable heavyweight division and set up a monster matchup against Vitali Klitschko, which would’ve lifted the sport to a new level.
As it is, we’re stuck with another mundane victory from a safety-first fighter who will never be called the heavyweight version of Manny Pacquiao. That’s unfortunate for those who desperately hoped this fight would pump life into the sport's one-time glamor division.
No one should be too hard on Klitschko, though. He just made the third-best heavyweight in the world look like he didn’t even belong in the ring with him, proving once again that he’s the best at what he does.
That’s saying something.