Ever since Lennox Lewis' retirement in 2003, the heavyweight division has lacked a vital ingredient -- suspense. Although the two-headed reign of Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko has produced many knockouts, their metronome-like precision and lack of two-way action has inspired respect but not love -- at least in America.
During this so-called "Dark Age," the one fight many said would salve the wounds was Wladimir Klitschko-David Haye, which will finally take place Saturday after a series of frustrating starts and stops. "The Hayemaker's" heavy hands and roiling rhetoric -- and the fact that three belts will be at stake -- made this fight irresistible. Will Haye pull off a historic upset or will "Dr. Steelhammer" pound another opponent into oblivion? Their CompuBox histories offer the following insights and advice:
For Klitschko to win he must:
Keep using a successful playbook -- Ever since joining forces with Emanuel Steward Klitschko has employed a brutally effective blueprint: (1) Use the jab often to establish punching range and keep opponents at arm's length and (2) Limit the number of power punches thrown to minimize risk on defense but maximize impact and discourage rivals from getting too brave.
Talk about hitting and not getting hit. Klitschko has outlanded his last four opponents 632-188 in total punches. In those fights against Hasim Rahman, Ruslan Chagaev, Eddie Chambers and Samuel Peter, Klitschko was both perfect soldier and supreme ring general. Of Klitschko's combined 52.6 total punches thrown per round, 36.7 of them -- 70 percent -- were jabs. Of those 632 landed punches, 421 (or 67%) were jabs. He out-landed Rahman 134-15, Peter 53-9, Chambers 124-54 and Chagaev 110-26 but his connect percentages have steadily gone down (50.3 Rahman, 30.6 Chagaev, 24.2 Chambers and 19.6 Peter). Still, he won virtually every round because his rivals mustered a token counter-attack, landing an average of FIVE, yes FIVE total punches per round.
Klitschko made the most of his power shots against the more accessible Rahman- 37 percent of 16.9 attempts, Peter- 39 percent of 22.8 attempts per round and Chagaev-38 percent of 12 attempts respectively) but was less successful against the slicker and more defensive-minded Chambers (24.5 percent of 12.6 attempts). The raw connect numbers weren't as lopsided as one might think- Klitschko outlanded Rahman 44-15, Peter 89-26, while Chambers and Chagaev were outdone only 37-22 and 41-21 respectively.
Is the 35-year-old Klitschko slowing down or has he throttled down because of boredom? Because Haye's antics have stirred Klitschko's anger we'll find out soon enough.
For Haye to win he must:
Rediscover his inner cruiserweight -- In four CompuBox-tracked cruiserweight outings, Haye was an offensive machine. He connected on 44.6 percent of his 51 punches per round, landed 37.1 percent of his 21.3 jabs and 49 percent of his 29.7 power punches. His output was near the divisional norms but his accuracy was far above them (10.4 points overall, 11 points jabs and 10 points power).
After rising to heavyweight his output has slowed precipitously. In his last four fights against Monte Barrett, Nikolay Valuev, John Ruiz and Audley Harrison, Haye averaged 25.8 punches per round, 44 percent below the 46.1 norm. In dethroning Valuev he averaged an astonishingly paltry 14.2 punches each round and the numbers weren't much better against Monte Barrett (24.4) and Audley Harrison (30.3). In stopping John Ruiz for the first time since David Tua did it in 1996, Haye threw 40.4.
Accuracy has been Haye's saving grace. Against Barrett he landed 50.8 percent (overall), 59.4 (jabs) and 47.8 (power) and the numbers were similar against Valuev (48.2, 45.7, 51.3) and Ruiz (39.0, 31.8, 47.9). Against Harrison (who established an unbreakable record by throwing zero power punches in a three-round title fight) Haye's numbers were down (29.7, 16.7, 36.1) but it had more to do with Harrison's unwillingness to fight than anything else. That's because Haye turned on the jets when he needed to -- but only then.
If he is to beat Klitschko he must find ways to disrupt the bigger man's rhythm- ie: TAKE AWAY HIS JAB! Speaking of the jab: Haye has not been hit with more than seven jabs in any round in the seven fights of his tracked by CompuBox. He is nimble enough to present unusual angles and his shocking power nearly took the giant Valuev off his feet. Haye may be the most athletic heavyweight on the planet but if he doesn't use it (enough), he'll lose it (the fight).
Prediction: Four factors are heavily in Klitschko's favor -- home ring advantage, height, reach and heavyweight championship experience. But Haye has assets like youth, ambition, hand speed, mobility and -- perhaps most importantly -- the ability to prick Klitschko's psyche. Both men's chins are vulnerable so a knockout is likely. If Haye picks up the pace and hurts Klitschko early, he may make history. But if both men stay true to their heavyweight forms, Klitschko will methodically pick Haye apart before disposing of him inside the distance.
For more CompuBox statistics on Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye, go to the Inside Fight Week Blog.
Posted 12:00 AM | Jun 28, 2011
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