Harry Pratt

Humbled Haye faces the music

Humbled in the ring, pummelled post fight, David Haye could have been forgiven for going into hiding this week, nursing busted pride and toe, to dodge the spray of bullets flying his way.

If it was not his conqueror in Hamburg, Germany, Wladimir Klitschko, the Ring heavyweight champion and holder of five world titles, branding him a poor loser, then it was the Ukrainian's manager, Bernd Boente, ridiculing demands for a re-match.

Back on British shores, meanwhile, the criticism for the fallen, former WBA beltholder from south London has reached fever pitch. A stream of vicious headlines from the English media, Monday morning, labelled Haye (25-2, 23 KOs) anything from ’hero to zero’ to a 'cry baby ‘. You name it, they screamed it. Scathing would be an understatement.

The general feeling is that Haye, a big mouth who talked so much offensive rubbish ahead of the showdown, now deserves everything he gets. And some. See why he might want to do a runner? If that swollen little toe would allow it, of course.

Whatever your take, though, on his disappointingly passive performance during 12 one-sided rounds at the Imtech Arena, when he only twice managed to catch Klitschko with a punch likely to trouble someone who has ruled the division for six years, or his lame excuse for defeat, or his call for a second crack at the undisputed champion, nobody can fault the 30-year-old cruiserweight-turned-heavyweight for fronting up to his deficiencies on Saturday night and facing the music upon his return to the UK.

At this moment, the only guy being trash-talked is Haye himself. And he fully understands why.

“When someone hypes the fight up as much as me and someone talks as much trash talk as I do, if it doesn‘t go your way, then you have to expect people to put the boot in,” Haye conceded on BBC Five Live.

“That’s why I’m here. Feel free to have a pop at me. I give it all the big talk. I talk the talk. But on Saturday night I did not walk the walk. You have to take the rough with the smooth. It’s the only way. You can’t just take accolades when things go well. When it doesn’t you’ve got to take the lumps.”

Then came an apology to his huge army of British supporters for a wasted trip to Germany, as well as a respectful tip of the hat towards Klitschko and the fact he was heavily outpointed by the better man. Forget broken toes. Forget problems of dodgy referees and doctors on enemy soil. Haye accepts he lost fair and square.

“There are many reasons but, credit to Wladimir, he won because he hit with me more punches," he said. "I got beaten by a guy who is very consistent, very strong and very good at what he does. He isn’t the world champion, with five belts, for nothing. It’s because he is a very good heavyweight. I gave it my best shot. Unfortunately, my best wasn’t good enough.

“That’s a very bitter pill to swallow. To finally have such a big fight, the chance to unify the heavyweight division, and not to be able to produce the goods is a real gutter. I could see the shots I wanted to land but I couldn’t land them. He was too far away from me. Normally, I find a way in fights to win but it just didn’t gel for me. That was very frustrating.

"So many fans travelled out there for the fight. I've never been around a fight with an atmosphere like that. It was mental and I feel I have let a lot of people down.”

Regards his proposal for a second title fight, Haye recognises the idea is probabaly far-fetched and nothing more than a pipe dream given the Klitschko camp have indicated he must wait in line for his turn – or instead take on older brother, Vitali, the WBC holder.

“I’m a no-one,“ Haye said before stating that he would scrap his planned retirement, on October 13 when he turns 31, to face Wladimir again. “The way I’m feeling today and knowing my competitive spirit, if he gave it to me in November, I’d probably have to say ‘yes‘. But if he says I have to have two more fights first, it’s ‘no‘.

“If he wants to knock me out, and get his 50th knockout – as he said he did – I’m still here and I’d be ready to give him the opportunity. But I am the challenger. I am at his mercy. I came to the table last time with a world title. Now I am nothing. I am title-less.

"I know his manager really doesn’t like me. But when he see the numbers, that they earned five times more than from any of his previous fights, then he might think differently. In boxing, if it makes dollars, it makes sense."

Love him or loathe him, Haye, it seems, is set to divide opinion for a while longer.

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