On Saturday night (November 15) at The O2 in North Greenwich, David 'The Hayemaker' Haye emphatically tossed his name into the heavyweight hat with a brutal five-round demolition of perennial contender Monte 'Two Gunz' Barrett.
Deemed the ideal gatekeeper or barometer of Haye's heavyweight progress, New Yorker Barrett found himself overwhelmed and eventually stopped in chilling fashion by a Haye combination at 1.28 of the fifth round.
Speaking afterwards, the 28-year-old Haye admitted that Barrett "buzzed" him on occasion and revealed that the American's heavyweight bombs made cruiserweight punches pale in comparison.
"It was fun in there", said Haye, now 22-1 (21 KO) and a former WBC, WBA and WBO world cruiserweight champion. "Once someone buzzes me, that is when I then plant my feet and start swinging away. Adam (Booth, manager and trainer) goes crazy but the crowd love it. Barrett's jabs were the equivalent of a cruiserweight's right hand. That's something I'll have to get used to."
Barrett's danger, recklessness and wild sense of abandonment was noted beforehand and was swiftly and dramatically exemplified as he entered the glorious O2 Arena. Opting to take an ambitious run and jump over the top rope, Barrett ended up suffering his first heavy knockdown of the evening as he tripped and tumbled into the ring. Triggering rapturous laughter and cheers from the 10,000-strong O2 crowd, Barrett bounced around in awkward attempts to shake off the humiliation.
In stark contrast, and now becoming something of a trademark, Haye swaggered and swayed his way to the ring with all the ease and saccharine of a matinee idol. Without a care in the world - and with no intention to hurdle the top rope - Haye soaked up the atmosphere in a scene duplicated from his March massacre against Enzo Maccarinelli.
Looking in tremendous shape at 226-pounds, Barrett flexed and stared at Haye as he slipped between the ropes. It was only now that the heavyweight realisation hit home. Haye's trainer, Adam Booth, said in the aftermath: "Barrett looked massive in there. He looked strong and thick. David had got to his weight purely on boxing training - no weights. Barrett looked much bigger and he knew it."
Barrett's size was, ultimately, inconsequential. Haye, slimmer at 215-pounds, used his ring savvy, hand speed and ability to keep Barrett guessing in order to steal positions. He jabbed well in the first round - to head and body - and would occasionally make Barrett miss or nervously fall short with his own punches. Often the mere threat of Haye's counter-shots forced Barrett to carry the look of an anxious man.
Things heated up in the second round as Barrett started to close the distance and take chances. Letting his hands go more freely, the 37-year-old Barrett started to ask Haye questions. He'd throw left hooks and swooping rights with the sole intention of taking Haye out. There was no plan to outbox Haye or set anything up. No delusions of a points win. Barrett was gunning for the one-punch knockout from the get-go.
Though carrying obvious danger, Barrett's recklessness played into Haye's hands. Never one to refuse a trade-off, Haye would punch with Barrett and often get their first given his superior hand speed and timing. Pivotally, this happened in the third round as Haye swung a wide left-hook that glanced off Barrett's chin and forced the American to stumble to the floor. Stunned rather than hurt, he climbed to his feet immediately.
The following onslaught from Haye was as frantic as it was inevitable. Throwing any sense of game plan or tactics out the window, Haye put faith in wild right hands and left-hooks to try and force the stoppage. Meanwhile, Barrett - a fighter who loves to live on the edge - happily took his chances and traded with the quicker Haye.
With 20 seconds to run in the third round, Haye scored his second knockdown of the night, brought about via a cuffing right hand to the side of Barrett's head. The New Yorker stumbled forward on to his knees and took a deep breath. The heat was beginning to overwhelm him. He had nowhere to breathe, let alone run.
Despite making it out of the torrid third round, Haye's fire never relented. Legs now unsteady and self-doubt waiting at the door, Barrett fought like a man who knew his only chance was to get lucky. Self-applied assertions of him being the better boxer, the faster puncher and the bigger puncher were now rendered mere pipe dreams. All were false and Barrett knew it.
A third knockdown followed in the fourth as Haye made Barrett miss, poked him with a left-hook and spun out. Off balance, Barrett dropped to the floor. Complaining it was only a slip, Barrett rose quickly.
If the third knockdown was debatable, the fourth most certainly wasn't. With 20 seconds to go in the round, Barrett lurched forwards, flurried his hands and dramatically walked directly into a beautifully-picked Haye right uppercut. The shot sliced through Monte's non-existent guard and pierced the heavyweight's chin. Seemingly unconscious for a split second, Barrett dropped to the floor and snapped out of it.
While on the floor, Barrett stared up at referee Richie Davies with the look of a man who didn't expect the kind of firepower he'd tasted. Now he was hurt. These weren't glancing blows or slips. Hauling himself up at nine, Barrett managed to just about see out the round on unsteady legs as Haye went in for the kill.
Out of time in the previous round, Haye had only one thing on his mind as he entered the fifth round. Hell-bent on finishing proceedings as quickly as possible, Haye came out swinging - some landing, some missing - and nearly walked into trouble. Shooting wide with a right hand and left-hook, Haye squared up and was caught - almost pushed - to the floor by a Barrett left arm.
As Haye fell back onto the ring canvas, Barrett mercilessly followed up with a vicious left-hook to his grounded opponent. Referee Davies was given no alternative but to dock a point from Barrett for the illegal blow.
A little shaken by it all, Haye took a momentary time-out before re-commencing his destruction of Barrett. It took him only 20 seconds of the re-start to finish matters.
A hard left-hook, followed by an even harder straight right hand sent Barrett's head spinning, before Haye closed the show with a concussive left-hook. Barrett fell heavily and with no intention to rise again. The referee called off the count before he'd even begun.
The heavyweight 'Hayemaker' had arrived. Now a bonafide force in the heavyweight division, Haye's destruction of Barrett left ringsider Vitali Klitschko with one or two things to ponder in the coming months. Britain finally has a heavyweight to get excited about. Furthermore, the world finally has a heavyweight to get excited about.