Renowned for his crushing punch-power, European cruiserweight champion David Haye had to rely on his more subtle qualities last night (July 21) in Altrincham, as he diffused the challenge of Belgium’s Ismael Abdoul over 12 rounds.
Each of the three EBU judges scored the bout 120-108 in Haye’s favour after the completion of the 12 rounds, and the victory marked the first time the Londoner had ever been taken the distance as a professional.
Yet, while Haye, now 17-1 (16), benefited from getting 12 rounds under his belt before a potential world title shot, the nature of the bout and the effort of Abdoul left a lot to be desired.
Famed for his durability, cagey style, and impenetrable defence, Abdoul tucked up from the very first round, and, despite sporadic meanderings, refused to emerge from his shell from first bell to last.
Subsequently, the normally ferocious and exciting Haye was forced to re-think his tactics and pick the watertight Belgian lock in front of him. In the early going Haye used his impressive left jab to keep Abdoul at bay, and to keep foraging for openings.
However, despite the punch-picking of Haye, and the fact he was losing round upon round, Abdoul still stood firm – reluctant to throw punches and leave himself open to counters. The early rounds would follow a similar pattern. Haye would effectively work jab; Abdoul would cover up. Haye jabs; Abdoul slips into a state of non-punching.
Occasionally, Abdoul would surprise the agitated crowd at the Altrincham Leisure Centre – he’d attempt a looping left hook. It was the only punch, other than a fairly sound jab, that Abdoul would attempt to throw over the course of 12 rounds. Yet, even then, Haye blocked just about every single one of them thrown. Shockingly, Abdoul only got through with 19 punches throughout the completed 36 minutes.
This EBU title affair certainly wasn’t the anticipated clash of December ’05 between Haye and Alexander Gurov, or even David’s March dual with a game and ambitious Lasse Johansen. In Manchester last night, Haye was essentially in with a man intent on hearing the final bell – and nothing else.
Consequently, Haye failed to really shine in front of the Sky Sports cameras. While his jab was snappy and accurate throughout – and some tasty uppercuts and right hands nailed Abdoul during the middle rounds – Haye has looked far more impressive during the course of his three-and-a-half-year career against opponents willing to engage.
Last night, Haye was safety-first, measured, wholly in control, and workmanlike. The European champion carried no real intention of trying to halt Abdoul – aware of the consequences should he mess up so close to a shot at WBC champion O’Neil Bell.
Taken for what it was – a 12-round workout – Haye, and trainer Adam Booth, were pleased with the night’s work.
“I knew as soon as I landed my very first jab that Abdoul had a really hard head,” Haye admitted. “There was absolutely no point in battering away at his head for three minutes each round in the hope of budging him. I’ve got some big fights ahead, and I wasn’t about to badly damage by hands in a fight where I could easily win in first gear. I couldn’t afford to take any chances.”
Booth added: “I told David before the fight, and during the fight, that he shouldn’t go out there and knock Abdoul out. That would have been the worst thing he could have done. I wanted him to enter that ring, follow a gameplan, and carry it out no matter what happened. He did just that, and as a result I’m more than happy with how the night turned out.”
With EBU title defence number two successfully secured, Haye can now eye up the men at the top of the world cruiserweight tree – namely, Jamaican number one O’Neil Bell. Haye is, of course, the number one challenger to Bell’s WBC belt, and talks between the two camps will commence on Monday morning with a view to securing the highly-anticipated match.