After a three year layoff and much heavy hinting through boxing media channels, David Haye has finally announced his long awaited return to the heavyweight stage against anticipated victim, Mark De Mori.
At yesterday's presser (by the time this goes out), alongside new trainer Shane McGuigon (stable master of the likes of Carl Frampton), Haye revealed he'd be stepping between the ropes to face 33 year-old Australian on January 16th.
Though there has been widespread approval of his scheduled comeback and new training partnership, Haye has already come under some criticism via social media. Given the Hayemaker's vehement condemnation of the brothers Klitschko in the past, and even of De Mori himself, for padding out their win tallies with easy opponents, there are undoubtedly those who view his opponent selection as hypocritical.
With just one look at the spirited conversation on twitter alone, there are those who have questioned whether Haye is merely returning to the ring for a string of easy paydays, rather than through any real motivation to challenge for a top-level heavyweight crown. Some have gone so far as to say that he'd way too far over the hill to get back into contention, and even that De Mori could pull off an upset.
Whilst this could potentially happen - fighters can decline very rapidly after their peak - it seems highly unlikely. Let's not forget that David Haye isn't just a random fighter pulled from the local pub. He's a two-weight world champion, having unified the major cruiserweight titles in his first professional campaign and, after moving up to heavyweight, won the WBA World title from Nikolai Valuev, the heaviest boxing champion in history.
Let's also not forget that, as Haye noted himself, even though it's been three years since his conclusive 5th round demolition of Dereck Chisora, many greats including Muhammad Ali, Foreman, Frazier, Vitali Klitschko and Mike Tyson all made emphatic comebacks after long periods of inactivity. Without directly comparing Haye to those luminaries, it's at least worth considering that his age, at 35, doesn't totally factor him out of the game just yet.
However, perhaps Haye's critics have a point, at least in terms of De Mori being an obvious underdog coming into the o2 Arena on 16/1. After all, not even a generous perusal of De Mori's record gives away much in the way of elite opposition. Nevertheless, to criticise Haye for his selection policy as if it belies lack of motivation certainly seems to be the wrong way to look at it.
For one thing, boxing fans shouldn't forget that, however he got there, Mark De Mori is ranked #10 by the WBA - not exactly a bogus sanctioning body. If Haye's critics are right, and De Mori has just positioned himself that highly in one of the world rankings by accumulating a large tally of easy wins, then he's largely untested. If we're assuming, as the critics do, that Haye is definitly going to win, this could mean one of two things:
- De Mori really is going to be easy opposition, fed to Haye like a lamb to the slaughter.
- De Mori might prove a wildcard and give Haye a great tune-up fight, given that we don't know his real ability against strong opposition.
Secondly, in order to get himself into a mandatory position to challenge for a world title, Haye needs to get into the heavyweight rankings himself. The best way to do this: defeat ranked opponents. If option (1) turns out to be true, then Haye's earned himself a very easy route into the WBA rankings. However, if (2) is true, he's given himself a much needed tune-up fight which will still get him ranked at heavyweight.
In either case, even if David Haye is dead certain to win against a weak underdog in De Mori, he seems to have selected his first step back into heavyweight contention very intelligently indeed. If so, it seems those who criticise Haye's true motivation for stepping back between the ropes in January can only be dead wrong.