By Matt Winsper
Looking lean, sleek and relaxed, English cruiserweight puncher David ‘Sensational’ Haye stepped into the ring with a focused expression on his face for the opening bell of his European Cruiserweight title match against 4 time champion Alexander Gurov of the Ukraine. Less than 3 minutes later, he was stepping back out of the ring with the belt around his waist for his post-fight interview.
All it had taken was a single mighty right hand to flatten the 6’5” Eastern European champ, who not long before had taken current WBC/WBA titlist Jean Marc Mormeck eight rounds. In an eerily similar fight seven years before, Gurov had been flattened with the same punch for the same belt here in England by Terry Dunstan. It seems the lesson had not been learned. Gurov, now 38-5-1 (33), came into the ring looking dry, and obviously had not warmed up. Haye’s first right hand nicked his chin and jolted it back, and when the second shot thundered through his southpaw guard and detonated on his jaw, the Ukrainian collapsed, and didn’t even come close to beating the count from referee Guido Cavalleri of Italy.
A fairly small crowd at the Bracknell Leisure Centre in the county of Berkshire, England, may not have got a full main event for their money, but they did get one of Britain’s best knockouts of the year, and they happily applauded Haye’s European title win. It was arguably Haye’s toughest fight on paper, perhaps even more so than his match with veteran Carl Thompson in 2001, in which Haye was stopped in the 5th to end his unbeaten record. Gurov, after all, had mixed consistently in European or World class for over a decade, holding the European belt four times and challenging for a world crown twice. He was world ranked by most coming in, and this impressive victory must surely catapult Haye into the world rankings, despite the fact that he has had just 16 fights (15 wins, all by knockout, against the single loss to Thompson). He is a devastating puncher with a slick, athletic style, and there is still room for improvement at just 25 years of age.
“I’d like the Thompson fight again,” he told Sky Sports TV afterwards, “and I hope to be fighting for a world title very soon. I honestly believe that when I’m mentally right like I was tonight, there is no-one who can take my punches. The only fighter who might give me trouble is Jean Marc Mormeck, but I think if I kept hitting him like that tonight I’d knock him out.”
Haye also mused on a move to heavyweight in the near future, claiming difficulty making the 200lb cruiserweight limit, but surely his brand of speed and power would be better served here at his current division. There are plentiful foes for him to battle with, not least fellow Brits Johnny Nelson and Enzo Maccirinelli, due to face each other early next year. And besides those there are world class stalwarts in Wayne Braithwaite, Kelvin Davis and Dale Brown, all looking for big performances to ease back into world title contention. Surely a fight with a 16-bout virtual novice would interest them…and provide Haye with a gateway to a title shot of his own.
And of course, then there is Carl Thompson, who 15 months ago took Haye’s early onslaught and wore the young puncher down for an exciting stoppage win. With Thompson having struggled his way to a decision win on the Ricky Hatton card last month, a rematch would be perfectly balanced and a natural fight to make.
Whatever happens next for David Haye, however, keep your eye on him ready for an assault on the world stage next year.
On the undercard, 23 year old heavyweight prospect Roman Greenberg boxed his way to a 10 round decision over Texan journeyman Kendrick Releford. Greenberg, a Russian/Israeli now living in England, moved to 21-0-0 (14), but is still a work in progress. He showed a nice jab and some quick hands, but also looked too relaxed and allowed Releford to get too many right hands off. The American landed a few meaty shots, but with 5 stoppages in 20 fights (13-6-1), he was never going to have the power to trouble the youngster.
Greenberg won most of the rounds with his accuracy, and received a 98-93 score from the sole judge and referee Kenny Green. Greenberg, who fought with the Star of David on his trunks, may yet turn into a decent contender in the future, but at the moment has a few too many defensive lapses and often stood back to admire his work instead of following up his solid jab-right hand combinations.
A fight with either British Champion Matt Skelton or Commonwealth Champion Danny Williams would be too much, too soon at this point, but the likeable prospect called the latter out anyway afterwards, and also said he’d beat Audley Harrison after the Olympic Champion’s dire performance against Williams last week.
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