David Haye stomps The Cobra in two rounds
When, before an event, a heavier than normal emphasis is placed on nicknames and alter-egos, it rarely amounts to much of a “fight” per se. But just as Paul Levesque versus Mark Calaway worked better as Triple H versus The Undertaker, tonight (May 21) at London’s O2 Arena, The Hayemaker versus The Cobra was a far better fit than David Haye versus Arnold Gjergjaj. It was easier to say, sell and stomach that way. Certainly wasn’t much of a fight, though; The Cobra, this evening’s jobber, folded quickly and was saved at 1:35 of Round 2.
The Cobra was The Cobra for a number of reasons. Aside from Gjergjaj being almost unpronounceable, by introducing him as The Cobra you at least stood a chance of glossing over the fact that his 29-bout unbeaten professional record consisted of very few recognisable names (rest assured, nobody was researching The Cobra – not on BoxRec, not on YouTube – and this lack of information made a wonderful mystery out of him). Better still, it’s a nickname more commonly associated with one of Britain’s most beloved recent boxers, Carl Froch, and, who knows, if you’re shooting for a certain – let’s say “casual” – demographic, maybe somebody hears the name, sees a white guy, puts two and two together and comes up with a grudge match at a catchweight of 190 pounds between a couple of old amateur teammates. I hope not. I suspect not. But you never know.
Well, for our sins, we’ve seen The Cobra now. The one from Gjakova. The one dropped by Denis Bakhtov. There’s no longer the need for the smoke, the mirrors or the nickname. Tonight we saw David Haye cut through all that, expose Arnold Gjergjaj’s limitations and reveal very little about himself in the process. Nothing new, anyway. He effortlessly penetrated Gjergjaj’s guard in the first minute of the fight to knock him down with a crisp right hand. He then floored him again in the second round – this time with a jab – before finally putting the Swiss-based Kosovan out of his misery with a cluster of shots, the most hurtful of which seemed to be a right to the body, moments later. As expected, job done.
“I felt amazing,” said Haye. “The fans have come out to see the future of heavyweight boxing. People thought I was the past, but I am still the future.”
Here’s the thing. Haye is a danger to IBF titleholder Anthony Joshua – the man he wants more than anyone – but he was a danger to him yesterday as well. That hasn’t changed. For as long as he can punch hard, that will always be the case, and wins against The Dominator (otherwise known as Mark De Mori) and The Cobra weren’t required to suddenly trigger this revelation. If anything, those knockouts are necessary only because they add to Haye’s highlight reel, allow him to gather some momentum, essentially un-retire, and because they keep his name in the running for a shot at Joshua, British boxing’s most valuable asset.
Is that enough? Frankly, in this day and age, with the heavyweight title picture once again fractured and fascinating, it probably is. Contenders know to bide their time, ensure they don’t screw up, and, if the record looks pretty and the numbers make sense, they’ll probably wind up with a shot at a belt.
It pays, therefore, to keep winning and Haye, now 28-2, is doing just fine in that department. Sure, he’s 36 soon, and his reflexes won’t be getting any sharper, but the heavyweight division loves a veteran on the comeback trail, especially one with power and personality. Proper fights, we hope, will soon come.
Shannon Briggs, at 44, is no longer even a nickname. The Cannon hasn’t meant much to anyone outside boxing circles since the late 90s. Instead, the brash Brooklynite has been diluted to a catchphrase. Let’s Go Champ! Let’s Go Champ! Let’s Go Champ! It’s barked over and over like this as though Shannon himself is so afraid he won’t remember the words in years to come he’s trying to hardwire them into his subconscious.
After all, charismatic though he might be, and a top heavyweight he might once have been (somewhere back in 1997), there’s still no shaking the image of him in a hospital bed, in intensive care, following a 2010 drubbing at the hands of Vitali Klitschko. And while he’s undoubtedly a savvy self-promoter, especially in an age where viral videos are seemingly all that matters, it doesn’t mean charm and chanting should necessarily lead to him receiving a wad of cash and plenty more blows to his head.
Let’s not kid ourselves, though. All the while it’s his choice and there’s money to be made, Shannon Briggs will continue to fight. He was back in the ring tonight, in fact, knocking out Argentina’s Emilio Ezequiel Zarate (KO 1, due to a body shot) in a sideshow attraction which served no purpose other than to formally introduce him to a British audience he hopes will come out in numbers to watch him fight David Haye in September. That will, by all accounts, be another O2 Arena extravaganza. The Hayemaker versus The Cannon. Let’s Go Champ! Let’s Go Champ! Let’s Go Champ! It’s not a matchup any of us need to see, nor does it mean a great deal in 2016, but Briggs, 60-6-1, if it’s his desire to keep fighting, is at least in good physical shape, is dangerously durable and has a pronounceable surname. For those three reasons alone, it should be the most insightful “Haye Day” of 2016.