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Liam Blackburn Headshot

Why we Shouldn't Support David Haye Just Because He's a British Boxer

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We Brits have a penchant for descending upon other countries en masse to witness sporting events involving our own countrymen. It was therefore unsurprising to see swathes of British fans in Hamburg on Saturday night to support Londoner David Haye in his heavyweight title fight against Wladimir Klitschko.

If Haye was from Lisbon not London, or Belgium rather than Britain, he would have few supporters. Arrogance is not a trait valued highly in sport, particularly when it is weighted against the humility which Klitschko has in abundance.

Furthermore, Haye was not fighting for Britain only himself. His Union Jack trunks and the pre-fight national anthem may strengthen the ties to his country of birth but in an individual sport like boxing, nationality is ultimately irrelevant. Yet Britain was behind Haye for in sport, patriotism seems to triumph above all.

This is something which has always perplexed me. The likes of Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Ashley Cole are cast as reprehensible figures every weekend. They are booed, jeered and scorned by football fans because of the club badges which adorn their shirts or in some cases purely out of personal dislike. Yet once they put on an England shirt and start winning games, most of that hatred subsides regardless of club allegiances.

In many ways it is a cause which should be championed. National unity is a great thing whether it is for a football match or a royal wedding. But for me it's never been an excuse to pledge my support to those who represent all the ills which blight sport. The pure whiteness of an England shirt does not transform Rooney into an angel. Some see the bigger picture, shunning personal preferences for a "we're all in this together" mantra. I, on the other hand, would much rather laud sporting excellence regardless of nationality.

That is not to say I am on an anti-British agenda or that I am alone. When it comes to golf, there is nobody more exciting and more likeable than Rory McIlroy. When the Northern Irishman capitulated at The Masters earlier this year not even Twitter indulged in a spot of schadenfreude. The same luxury was not afforded to Haye this weekend. The fact that both are British is therefore obviously redundant for others too.

I'd like to want Haye to succeed for he has breathed life into a weight division which has been largely dormant for some time despite its glorious past. I'm not even dissuaded by the arrogance which he so often flaunts.

But there are sides to Haye which I detest. The frequent falls to the canvas in Saturday's bout which Haye tried to disguise as Klitschko pushes were nothing short of disgusting. It's exactly the type of theatrical behaviour which is rightly criticised in football. Had the boot been on the other foot, Klitschko would have been derided as a cheat. As it turned out Haye's tomfoolery went largely unnoticed by British observers.

Then consider Haye's post-fight interview. He bleated on about a broken toe, a handicap yes, but a sour note to chime. In the cold light of defeat in Hamburg, there was little evidence of an English gentleman accepting he was beaten by the better man. Meanwhile the charming Klitschko continued to retain a high sense of dignity by praising the travelling British crowd.

So if Haye ridicules the very art of boxing and if he spews bitter excuses after a defeat, why should he garner so much support? Because he's British? Do me a favour.

"The love of one's country is a splendid thing," said Spanish conductor Pablo Casals. "But why should love stop at the border?"