EIGHT long years ago today, I found myself at The Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany to watch WBC heavyweight king Vitali Klitschko win comfortably against a very game Albert Sosnowski. Finally halting the Pole at 2-40 secs of the tenth-round, Vitali retained his belt in typically dominant fashion. But the actual fight was not the main talking point in Germany, far from it. No, in the bars, on the streets, inside the arena, all the passionate German fans wanted to talk about was a certain David Haye and the British fighter who had so offended them and their boxing heroes, Vitali and Wladimir, with his infamous decapitated heads T-Shirt.
To put it mildly, the German fans wanted Haye’s head!
“When will Haye accept the fight?” German fan after German fight fan asked me that night almost a decade ago, simply because I am English. “Your man is scared and he knows he has no chance with Vitali or Wladimir,” the younger fans told me. Perhaps they were expecting me to disagree strongly with them, but I actually found myself in agreement with them. As things turned out of course, Haye did fight a Klitschko – losing a wide, dull and disappointing decision to Wladimir in Germany in the summer of 2011.
What would have happened if Haye had fought Vitali though?
Would the Vitali we saw extended 10 rounds by the average Sosnowski have had the beating of the fast, young and, at the time, big-hitting Brit? Was Vitali, as dominant as he was against “The Dragon”, starting to show signs of age? And with his low-held hands, might Klitschko have been in at least a little bit of trouble against “The Hayemaker”? Or, perhaps more likely, would Vitali have hammered Haye and hammered him hard? In his next fight after dealing with Sosnowski the elder Klitschko brother dished out a most painful beating to Shannon Briggs. Only Briggs’ heart kept him in the fight for all 12 rounds. Would Haye have capitulated against this version of “Dr. Iron Fist”?
Of course we will never know, but go back eight years, and this fight is all German fans wanted to talk about. They knew Wladimir did not posses the finishing instinct of Vitali, or the desire to render a rival unconscious the way his brother did. These fans wanted Haye punished, knocked out. Wladimir ended up doing what they felt would be the case, he outboxed and outclassed Haye. But this wasn’t enough – not for what he did in insulting both giants. These fans wanted Vitali to destroy Haye.
Had Haye set foot inside The Veltins Arena the night Vitali pounded on Sosnowski, he would have needed an absolute ton of security, that’s for sure. As I myself can attest, it was pretty hairy that night; even for a British fight fan.