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Sport isn’t always about the quality and skill on display. It’s not necessarily about seeing the best of the best the sport has to offer. Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be any good.
Sometimes it is all about the spectacle.
That was the case on Saturday night, as David Haye battled and defeated the WBA Heavyweight Champion, Nikolai Valuev. Valuev was nine inches taller, seven stone heavier and had an eight-inch reach advantage. It was billed, with little imagination, as David versus Goliath. But, really, how else could you promote it?
David Haye, himself 6 foot 3 inches, was dwarfed by his opponent, who to all intents and purposes looked like a Tolkein-esue monster crossed with a brick wall. As Valuev lumbered and stalked, Haye ducked and dodged, constantly on the move. Here was the spectacle, compelling yet faintly ridiculous. Scary, yet funny. The entertainment was in what was before us, the view, rather than the action.
This was far from a classic toe-to-toe encounter. The dimensions of the fight meant there was movement, but little contact. It was not a ‘good’ fight, in any sort of objective way.
However, while little happened, that inaction just ramped up the tension. A brief flurry in each round was the only release, but even then, you could only think, “If Haye gets caught, he’s done for.”
But he survived, with a combination of skill and guts.
He was clearly better technically, and had his tactics down pat. While Valuev couldn’t catch Haye, Valuev couldn’t win.
Haye showed guts, and not only in the obvious sense of stepping into what appeared to be such a mis-match (at least in size). He revealed afterwards that he fought most of the fight with a broken hand. Maybe Valuev is half-brick wall after all.
And so, Haye, the unlikely winner stood triumphant. He did not slay the giant, but he certainly stunned him, and deservedly won on points. We may not see such a bizarre boxing match for some time. Amid the circus, it’s easy to forget Britain has a new World Heavyweight Champion.