By Shane Thomas
There's no doubt that the broken toe suffered by David Haye during his defeat to Wladimir Klitschko over the weekend goes some towards explaining the pretty feeble display we saw from the former WBA heavyweight champion, but history won't excuse it.
While Haye's trainer Adam Booth has revealed that the reason for his fighter's delay in entering the ring was so he could have a last-minute painkilling injection, it also looked as if Haye was trying everything he could think of to unsettle the meticulous preparation of the Ukrainian.
Yes, an injury is always going to put a boxer at a disadvantage, but what was so deflating was that Haye seemed clueless, beyond wild swings of his right hand, in finding another way to win. He wasn't just beaten by a better fighter, but by a smarter fighter. Any champion worth remembering has to face adversity, and refuse to blink under its intense glare. And in Haye's bullish demeanour in the build-up, it seemed as if he was that man. But all he did was entice us into a very frustrating & unfulfilling game of patience.
As his entrance music rang out around the Imtech Stadium; we waited. He was being repeatedly tagged by Klitschko's stiff left jab, so we expected a fiery riposte; we waited. Boxing fans & the partisan British support were geared up for a show that would propel the heavyweight boxing division back to the blue riband position that was once its birthright; and we waited.
We waited, and waited, and waited. We waited, full of expectation, ready to proclaim our new boxing hero (and probable winner of 2011's Sports Personality Of The Year). But in the end, we were like Estragon & Vladimir (no connection to Klitschko), waiting and waiting for something that would never arrive.
MEANWHILE AT WIMBLEDON...
While Andy Murray shouldn't be too downcast after falling short to Rafael Nadal yet again in the Wimbledon semi-finals, there was a clear lesson for him to learn if he is to attain the Grand Slam titles that he so craves.
After a set and three games of some of the finest tennis he has ever played, he missed a routine forehand while leading 2-1 & 30-15 in the 2nd set. That was the moment in the match when Murray became fully aware of the situation he was in. It was when he remembered that he has no business in vanquishing the mightiest the sport has to offer, particularly in front of his home crowd.
For Murray to succeed at SW19 - or any Grand Slam for that matter - he has to believe with absolute certainty that he not only belongs on the best courts with the best players, but that he has a divine right to be there. Murray did this all too briefly last Friday, and then allowed that belief to wane.
While Nadal, Roger Federer & the new top dog, Novak Djokovic are markedly different in style, what links them all is that they believe they are the king of all they survey. Tennis is nothing more than a subservient lackey, indulging their every whim.
Until Murray adds this mindset to his cornucopia of shot-making ability, he'll never be any more than just the best of the second rank of players in the men's game. Indeed, a little more of David Haye's brashness would not go amiss. After all, it's not as if he has to worry about being branded as arrogant, plenty of the British public dislike him enough as it is.
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