Switzerland is famed for its chocolates, cheese, the Red Cross, relaxed banking practices and neutrality. However it seems, the country is not famed for producing elite heavyweights as UK boxing fans found out on Saturday night.
It was the latest instalment of “Haye Day,” which saw former WBA heavyweight world champion David Haye 35, continue his comeback from a three and a half year lay-off, with a second round stoppage of the previously undefeated Arnold Gjergjaj at the O2 Arena, London.
The Kosovo born, Swiss resident, Gjergjaj 29, was about as offensively minded as the Swiss army were during both World Wars. He was badly exposed and visited the canvas three times before the referee Terry O’Connor intervened to wave the fight off.
It was nothing more than a tune-up fight for Haye who has former WBO heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs in his sights for September this year.
The 44 year old former champion Briggs also featured on the same bill, with a first round stoppage of Argentina’s Emilio Ezequiel Zarate. Briggs utilised his superior speed, head movement and vicious body punches to beat any resistence out of the thoroughly outclassed Zarate.
The entire bill was broadcast on the digital TV channel Dave better known for its comedy programming more so than its live sporting events. It was no laughing matter as there was a severe backlash on social media in respect of the quality of matchmaking on the card. Fans were further exasperated by the WWE-esque confrontation at ringside between Briggs and Haye after the Londoner’s victory.
Fans demand competitive matchmaking and certainly no one wants to see a fighter out of their depth and at risk of getting hurt. However one would be naive to think that business in boxing is anything other than brutal.
Poor matchmaking is not a modern phenomenon there have always been sacrificial lambs offered up to the boxing gods. There is a generation of fans perhaps too young to remember Muhammad Ali’s world title defence against the hapless Richard Dunn in 1976, or even Mike Tyson’s one round demolition of Bruce Seldon for the WBA heavyweight title in 1997.
The poor matchmaking on Saturday’s bill cannot be condoned yet at the same time the purpose of these fights were to make the fighters in question look good and build up the public interest the proposed Haye v Briggs showdown in September. That is after all the job of a promoter, which underlines the real issue with Saturday’s show.
David Haye is not just the main event but also the promoter under his own “Hayemaker Promotions,” banner. It is difficult to be both the star of the show and the director of the action. Saturday night would suggest he is a long way off from producing the Citizen Kane of live boxing shows but the 20,000 fans in attendance at the O2 didn’t seem to protest all that much.
Boxing remains an exciting spectacle at any level and Haye seems intent on taking his show into the nation’s living rooms. He signed an exclusive deal with Dave for his comeback, obviously in an effort to gain terristerial TV exposure. This creates its own problems for delivering a competitive show. The problem with modern boxing is that the Satellite stations still hold the monopoly in terms of coverage.
Matchroom Sport holds an exclusive deal with Sky Sports in regards broadcasting rights on their events. This has seen fighters scramble to get signed with Matchroom Sport in an effort to get the exposure and remuneration they desire. Most famously Scott Quigg defected from Ricky Hatton to sign with Matchroom in 2013 and coincidently both Dillian Whyte and Chris Eubank Jr have signed deals with Matchroom this weekend.
Frank Warren’s BoxNation provides a counterbalance to the dominance of Sky but boxing continues to only appear on terrestrial channels periodically. ITV the spiritual home of British boxing in the late 80s and 90s has only shown a handful of live boxing events in recent years. On a more positive note, Hennessey Sports have broadcast a number of live shows in recent years across the Channel 5 and Spike platforms, which helped build the career of a certain Tyson Fury.
In a sense Haye should be commended for trying to reignite the general public’s interest in boxing. To say it was one of the worst live shows in recent would do a disservice to fights like Markham v Mullender for the English middleweight title which featured on the undercard. It would also fail to take notice of the fact some of the top fighters in the country are not just tied in with their promoters but also their promoters respective television deal. It is becoming harder than ever to get the best fighters in the ring with each other.
Haye v Briggs may not be the fight that fans are demanding but if Haye emerged victorious it could reintroduce him as a player on the heavyweight scene and for the veteran Briggs no-one should begrudge him a big pay-day at this stage of his career.
Elsewhere in the heavyweight division New Zealand’s undefeated prospect Joseph Parker survived his sternest test to date with a points victory over dangerman Carlos Takam.
The hard punching Parker was troubled in the opening stanza by Takam’s tight defence and counter punching. After making some adjustments he went on to dominate the fight, but he showed that he can be vulnerable defensively particularly to a left hook.
Takam 35, is known as a pressure fighter but it seemed he preferred to stalk Parker round after round, only springing into action for the last minute of each round in an effort to steal the rounds on the cards. He did have some moments in the fight but he never exerted sufficient pressure on Parker to have him in any real trouble. It was a disappointing performance from Takam given the potential reward and the fact that he has been avoided by most fighters in the division. It is difficult to say whether he will get another chance like this.
With the win Parker becomes the mandatory challenger for Anthony Joshua’s IBF world heavyweight title. There are certainly question marks over the New Zealander’s defence and stamina. It will be interesting to see how he weather’s the pressure Joshua is likely to exert when the pair finally meet.