The culprit. Apparently. Image via badlefthook.com
It’s not a World Cup or Euro championship year, so your average English football player is far more likely to be sunning themselves on an exclusive beach or getting caught up in an odious sex scandal than being criticised for a poor international showing in an off-season competition.
Fortunately for the British tabloid press, who would lose at least fifty-three percent* of their source material if the English national team were to figure out how to play football with one another and simultaneously remain faithful to their partners, boxer David Haye had a big fight on July 2nd and the aftermath of that should be sufficient to keep the hacks bathing in fresh ire for weeks to come.
To cut a long and fairly predictable story short, David Haye is a former cruiserweight boxer who moved up to the heavyweight division after defeating Enzo Maccarinelli in March 2008. He doesn’t tend toward crippling bouts of shyness on a regular basis, and despite being on the light side for a heavyweight boxer he wasted no time in taking on and beating some of the serious players in the division, including the 22st 8lb Russian Nikolai Valuev.
Wladimir Klitschko, weighing in at a comparatively sylph-like 17st 5lbs should therefore have presented no problem and Haye set about making sure that everyone knew this, trash talking his opponent, his opponent’s brother (who happens to be the WBC Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko) and their coaching team. Apparently, this did not have the intimidation factor that Haye had been hoping for, so during the fight negotiations he turned up for a press conference sporting a rather fancy t-shirt depicting himself in victory, holding the severed heads of both brothers aloft.
They were not pleased.
Haye was unfazed and persisted in waffling on about how he would ‘destroy’ Wladimir and then his brother to cement his status as undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Which would have been absolutely brilliant had he not been swatted aside by the supposedly ‘weaker’ brother in as one sided a match as it’s possible to have and then blamed his failure to perform on a broken little toe he had bravely failed to mention prior to the fight.
This fabulous excuse is the latest in a long line trotted out by English athletes who fail to perform to expectation. Haye is receiving about as many blows from the press as he did from Klitschko regarding his decision to come clean about the busted digit, which he did rather invite by popping it out at a press conference.
But while we’re all availing ourselves of the photographs and laughing heartily at Hayes’ misguided attempt to excuse his inability to get within three feet of his opponent, shouldn’t someone be asking why an elite athlete of his calibre would feel compelled to do such a thing? Why a man who has proved himself at the highest level feels the need to criticise his opponent at every opportunity and blame his defeat on a minor injury that, while painful, clearly wasn’t sufficiently so to cause him to pull out of the match-up?
Like all of us Brits who religiously follow Lindsay Lohan’s exploits while pretending that our newspaper of choice is the Guardian, Haye has become addicted to the cheap highs and lows of mass exposure. Who wouldn’t want to be in the centre of a maelstrom where everybody seems to hang off your every word, writes columns of prose about your every movement, telling you and the world that you are about to fulfil every dream you’d ever had? You either ignore it, keep your head down and concentrate or you buy into it, amping up your ludicrous claims until you start to believe them. Then you lose and the press cast you aside with contemptuous disgust, mocking all of the words they once printed as gospel.
For as long as the British press persist in wringing any possible excitement from an event before it takes place by claiming victory, athletes will always be the losers, whether footballers, boxers or tennis players. David Haye may struggle to rebuild his reputation, but for the time being, there’s still hope for Andy Murray.
But how much longer can he play tennis at Wimbledon while bearing the weight of a nation’s expectation?
We can only wait and see.
*Figure made up by the writer on spur of the moment to emphasise a point, rather than gleaned from any research.