European Cruiserweight champion David Haye scored the first defence of his newly acquired belt at the famous York Hall, Bethnal Green, London, by stopping rugged challenger Lasse Johansen of Denmark in eight rounds.
Remarkably for a world class boxer, it was the first time Haye has been past the 5th in a now 16-1-0 (16) record. Usually, the 25yr old English champion likes to blast out overmatched foes with lightning quick salvos in the opening rounds, but since blowing himself out and being stopped in 5 by veteran Carl Thompson in 2004, Haye has tried to fight with a more reserved style.
Even with this new relaxed temperament, Haye easily blew away quality veterans like Vincenzo Rossitto and then Alexander Gurov (the latter to win the European crown), but this time he was forced to put some rounds in by a surprisingly tough Dane with a 14 fight unbeaten record.
The first two rounds suggested an easy night’s work for Haye, as he whipped in fast and hurtful combinations that rocked back Johansen’s head. By the end of the 2nd, the challenger’s face was marked up and he had a bewildered look about him.
However, Haye, perhaps mindful of the questions regarding his stamina (plus the fact he’d struggled mightily to make the 200lb limit, having to shed a pound for a second attempt), eased his foot off the gas for several rounds, and the brave Dane fought his way back into the contest. After a good 6th for Johansen, in which he clubbed Haye with a few right hands that marked up the charismatic champion’s left eye, Haye went back to work. The 7th went all the champion’s way, and a nasty cut was opened up on the corner of Johansen’s left eye. When he was staggered in the 8th, with blood pouring down his cheek, the Dane signaled to referee Guido Cavalleri that he was done, and the Italian official jumped in to end the contest.
Haye’s performance managed to both answer and raise questions about him. We now know, for instance, that he can box at least 8 rounds. We don’t know, however, if his stamina will hold out in a hard 12 rounder based on the fact that he had to ration his punches in a routine fight like this.
We also know that his punching speed and power is truly world class, and that almost any cruiserweight in the world will struggle to stand up to his shots, but to counter that, we’re not sure what will happen to Haye if someone like world champion O’Neil Bell refuses to go down in the first half of the fight.
The questions are all part of the fun in watching David Haye, though. His speed and lightning right hands are mesmerizing to watch…but there’s always that lingering sense that his stamina might run out at any moment, probably based on the Carl Thompson fight, in which Haye suddenly hit ‘the wall’ after just three rounds and collapsed in the 5th.
Afterwards, Haye told Sky Sports interviewer Ed Robinson that he was pleased with his performance.
“I paced myself on purpose,” he said, “I was in control all the way through. I showed that I can stop someone late, although I already knew that from all the hard training in Miami.”
Manager Frank Maloney said that Haye would likely make another European title defence before moving on to the world stage. Fascinating fights with British rivals Enzo Maccirinelli, Mark Hobson and Johnny Nelson may be tough to make because of rival promoting teams, but a rematch with Carl Thompson would make sense for all, especially as a spring board from which Haye could leap into world class.
At the moment, he would start an underdog against an O’Neil Bell, Jean Marc Mormeck or Steve Cunningham, but his punch power and opening round assaults would certainly make him a live underdog at the least.