When Londoner David Haye turned pro in 2002 off the back of a successful amateur career, there was much fanfare. This, the British media thought, is a sure fire lock to bring a world cruiserweight title back to England. Haye, for his part, blew away his first ten opponents all inside the distance, seven of them in two rounds or less, and was suddenly one of our brightest prospects.
In his eleventh fight, however, Haye was put in with world class puncher Carl Thompson, fresh off a scintillating knockout win over Sebastian Rothmaan. At the time it was a 50/50 fight, but after Haye crumbled in five rounds we saw the fight for what it was...a young, untested prospect being thrown in with one of the division’s best punchers. We’d asked too much, too soon of David Haye, and he was forced to rebuild.
He did exactly that, flattening a Ukrainian journeymen, former British contender Garry Delaney and then Australian Glen Kelly, who had previously gone seven rounds with a prime Roy Jones Jr. With his confidence restored and evidence that he hadn’t gone gunshy, Haye was ready for some kind of title shot, and a grudge match with British and Commonwealth champion Mark Hobson was set up for this weekend. Hobson, a late bloomer enjoying a superb run of success, took offence to Haye’s lack of respect in the build up, and the two swapped verbal barbs with each other, making the fight one of the most eagerly anticipated clashed in Britain this year.
However, fate was tempted and fate responded by dropping a bout of shingles onto poor Hobson, who was forced to pull out of his title defence, scheduled for tomorrow evening at the Huddersfield Leisure Centre in the North of England. In came Italian contender Vincenzo Rossitto with a sparkling 30-3-2 record and a quality ten rounder was hastily arranged.
Whilst Rossitto obviously doesn’t carry the name value that Hobson had to British fans, his log is still pretty respectable for an opponent who is still only 13-1-0 (13). Rossitto has won the Italian title at both cruiserweight AND heavyweight, and has also unsuccessfully challenged for the European Cruiserweight Belt, being stopped by former world title challengers Pietro Aurino and Alexander Gurov. He obviously sees this last minute opportunity as a chance to get back in the title mix. If he loses to a fourteen fight prospect like Haye, then that must surely spell the end of his title dreams for the present.
Meanwhile, Haye is already looking ahead, with a European title shot against Gurov already tentatively booked for December, which tells us just how ambitious the 25 year old is. However...can his ambition be a hindrance in what is essentially a high profile tune up? Is it possible that Haye is looking towards a European title and beyond and this Italian shows up to put a spanner in the works? We know that Haye is a fast starter, and likes to blow opponents away in the first few rounds, and that after failing to do so against Thompson was left with nothing left by round 5. Could the same happen here? An examination of Rossitto’s record shows some level of vulnerability. Gurov, himself a big hitter, destroyed the Siracusan in just two rounds, and he was also stopped by light punching countryman Aurino in his first title challenge, which does not bode well. And whilst Haye fell apart under Carl Thompson’s assault, the Manchester veteran IS one of the division’s knockout artists, and Rossitto’s power doesn’t seem anywhere near that league, with only 17 stoppage wins in his 35 fights. Haye’s team aren’t going to choose an opponent who will take him out when he’s so close to big fights.
If the Italian shows up in shape and focussed, he can get through the opening rounds and tell us something about Haye’s stamina. It’s more likely, however, that with a big title shot down the road, Haye comes out determined and with purpose, and his lightning quick combinations see Rossitto off within four rounds.
Pick of the under-card sees former world rated welterweight James Hare continue his comeback. At one time, Hare was undefeated and being primed for a run up to world honours…but then two stoppage defeats to Cosme Rivera and David Barnes put a quick end to his title dreams.
Now he takes on journeyman Robert Lloyd Taylor in a six rounder, and should win on a late stoppage or wide decision.