By Alexey Sukachev and Alexey Potapov
Britain’s best David “The Hayemaker” Haye (23-1, 21 KOs) made a history by becoming only the second ever cruiserweight champion to capture a world title in the most prestigious weight class on Saturday night at the Versischerung Arena in Nuremberg, Germany. Haye outpointed WBA heavyweight titleholder Nikolay Valuev (50-2, 34 KOs) in a close and, in some corners, controversial fashion with the scores 114-114, 116-112 and 116-112. WBA #4 Haye followed the path of the legendary Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, who was, ironically, defeated by Nikolay in his last bout.
Haye started the fight cautiously, circling around much heavier Valuev without throwing any punches. Nikolay tried to set up his jab but failed to do so in the first couple of rounds. Valuev threw almost no power punches to give the Brit a taste of his power. Meanwhile, Haye found some success with his single attack in the round. The second stanza followed in the same pattern but the challenger was just a bit more successful, tagging the champion with the hard right hand at the end of the round; however, neither fighter engaged in heated action but preferred to box cautiously with Valuev’s activity being fairly ineffective. Round three was a better one for the Hayemaker, who scored thrice at least with long left hooks and a straight right hand that found Valuev’s chin while the champion failed to connect to Haye’s chest, which should have been a smart move to accomplish.
The fourth round saw a major change in the contest, as the champion has finally found his rhythm and started to connect to the Brit’s head and body more often. On the other hand, David Haye has lost a bit of his energy and it seemed he was experiencing some problems with stamina. Rounds five through seven were also in Nikolay’s favor as he was able to find David’s head on his way out on several occasions. Haye was too inactive and unwilling to trade punches with the champion to give him any problems but utilized his lateral movement to disappear from the coming onslaught. Valuev, however, was unable to rock or at least cleanly connect to his foe.
Haye caught a second win as the second half of the match up progressed. Round eight was pretty even, as he came back to his usual in-and-out tactics, scoring sometimes with a single left while preventing the slower champion from dealing him any punishment. Valuev became more and more fatigued and it resulted in a number of misses on his behalf in rounds nine and ten. Oppositely, Haye’s confidence and speed gave him the edge down the stretch. Round eleven was a close one in Nikolay’s favor.
The decisive final round started with champion’s aggression but Haye took his time to frustrate the champion and the suddenly connected with a hard left-right combination, which wobbled the Russian fighter for the first time in his career. Valuev was taken to the ropes on shaky legs but except for a short follow-up the British fighter chose not to risk it against the gigantic champion.
At the conclusion of twelve fairly uneventful rounds, judge Juan Manuel Garcia Reyes of Spain scored it a draw 114-114, while Tom Miller (USA) and Stefano Carozza (Italy) both had it 116-112 for the challenger and “the new WBA champion of the world” David Haye. Referee was Luis Pabon of Puerto Rico. Fightnews press row was divided in its opinion, almost resembling the official scoresheet: 112-116 (twice) for Haye and 114-113 for Valuev. All in all, a major shake-up in the heavyweight division and a banner victory for the brash Brit.
“His speed was too much for me”, said disappointed but still classy Niko during a post-fight shortie. “I don’t think it was a one-sided loss for me but it clearly wasn’t the best day in my life”.
“I did it exactly what I had predicted”, exclaimed the flamboyant champion. “I proved myself to be the best heavyweight in the world. Valuev was a tough fighter to overcome but I’ve done it at the end of the day”.
Former WBA heavyweight champion and WBA #1 (as well as the WBA mandatory) John Ruiz (44-8-1, 30 KOs) returned with a TKO victory in the seventh round over German-based Turk Adnan Serin (19-11-1, 7 KOs). “The Quiet Man” began this fight aggressively and after the first round, the left eye of Serin was a little bit damaged. Turkish fighter ate straight head shots as well. But in the fourth round, Serin got himself into the fight and cut Ruiz’s forehead just over the bridge of his nose. In the seventh round, the American gradually became more and more active and started to hammer Adnan Serin in the corner of the ring. After a standing eight count, Serin’s trainer was forced to throw in the towel. Time was 1:34. Ruiz is in line to face the winner of Valuev-Haye. A cut Ruiz suffered in the bout looked bad enough to require stitches.
Hard-hitting unbeaten Boricua Francisco Palacios (WBC/WBA #3 and IBF #13) proved both his cruiserweight ranks and punching power against American veteran DeLeon Tinsley (9-5-1, 5 KOs), stopping him in the first round. Heavily tattoed Palacios (19-0, 12 KOs) took his time to evaluate his foe, then connected hard with a brutal left hook, that iced Tinsley momentarily, finishing him with a straight right cross in an immediate follow-up. Tinsley rose on the wobbling legs but was too dazed to continue, forcing referee to halt the action after just two minutes of this puglilstic affair. Next for Palacios, 32, can be a major fight against much tougher opponent than this 38-year-old journeyman.
Up-and-coming WBC #10 and IBF #14 сruiserweight contender Alexander Frenkel (21-0, 17 KOs) annihilated former IBF cruiserweight champion Kelvin “Koncrete” Davis (24-11-3, 17 KOs) in the very first round. Frenkel beat Davis to the punch with a series of shots both to the head and body. Davis was not visibly shaken, but referee Ingo Barrabas stopped this fight a bit early at 2:07 of the first. Another sound statement on Frenkel’s behalf, while Davis should seriously consider retirement after another blowout.
Finnish heavyweight Robert Helenius (10-0, 6 KOs) followed Kubrat Pulev by making his step up as well. Helenius took on Ukrainian stylist Taras Bidenko (26-4, 12 KOs) and stopped him in three bloody rounds. The Finnish fighter controlled the action from the outside with his hard jab. He also used a left hook to cut the Ukrainian’s face badly in different spots though Bidenko was never been seriously rocked throughout the fought rounds. However, the bout was stopped between the third and the fourth rounds as Bidenko, who was destroyed by Denis Boytsov in his last fight, was bleeding too much to be allowed to continue.
WBO #9 heavyweight contender Gbenga Oloukun (17-3, 10 KOs) was surprisingly upset by “The Cobra” Kubrat Pulev (3-0, 2 KOs). The Bulgarian boxer confidently controlled the bout and his punches were by far more effective. Oloukun, who won over former WBO heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster just two fights ago, could do nothing to disrupt Pulev. The Bulgarian took the first couple of rounds to adjust to the Nigerian’s style but then started to dominate with his superior technical assets. Fightnews had it 60-54 for Pulev, who made a quantum leap up in class in this fight.
Unbeaten German heavyweight Edmund Gerber (9-0, 6 KOs) easily destroyed American no-hoper Shawn McLean (4-5, 3 KOs) in the very first round of scheduled eight. Gerber just went right after the guest fighter and dropped him at the end of the second minute of the first round with a punishing right. Dazed McLean got up but was immediately dropped two times more by charging Gerber. The stoppage came at 2:15 of the first round.
Middleweight Marcos Nader (5-0, 0 KOs) defeated Ciro Ciano (6-5-4, 1 KO) via unanimous decision, 60-54, 60-54, 59-55. Nader almost finished Ciano in the first round with a powerful counter right, but Ciano weathered the storm. Nader was in command the rest of the way. Fightnews had it 59-55 for Nader.
In the first fight on the card, rising super middleweight hope George Groves moved up to 7-0 with 5 KOs after the harder-than-it-seems eight-round decision over ultra durable Belarussian Konstantin Makhankov (15-19, 5 KOs). Groves used all his vast technical arsenal to put Makhankov out, including right and left hooks, right uppercuts and a hard jab, but the journeyman, who had been stopped only by 168lb banger Victor Oganov during his pro career, was just too tough and rugged to be put away. All three judges saw it in favor of Hayemaker prodigy with the same score of 80-72. Fightnews had it 80-73 for George Groves.