Matt Bevan (@MBevs68)
Boxing is always a slow month in January. You get the odd good fight every year, but usually it’s a slow-burner as fans, pundits and fighters wait for the kickstart to start the year off in earnest.
But, this year we could have an early jolt in the arm, as on Saturday three are three intriguing heavyweight dust-ups which could change the face of the division. Deontay Wilder defends his WBC strap against Artur Szpilka, whilst on the same night Charles Martin and Vyacheslav Glazkov vie for the recently vacated IBF belt in Brooklyn.
In the UK, we have the return of the ever polarising figure of “The Hayemaker”, David Haye, who returns from the wilderness, after three failed comeback attempts, to take on Australian Mark de Mori at the O2 Arena in London.
You either love him or you hate him, but Haye certainly gets people talking, even though it has been three-and-a-half years since he actually stepped in the ring to earn a paycheque.
Since his 2012 win over then arch-rival Dereck Chisora, there has been plenty of talk and rumours that he would return. Two fights with now heavyweight king Tyson Fury and another with Manuel Charr all fell by the wayside, so most gave up on seeing the 35-year-old trade leather.
Injuries and a cut in sparring have played their part in the delays, but now he is back and can once again provide some entertainment. Is he coming back just to fight Anthony Joshua, the fast rising star of British boxing? I’m sure we’ll find out, but at the moment we might as well enjoy seeing him back in the ring.
Haye’s career could be viewed as its own version of the good, bad and the ugly. There have been some superb performances, notably at cruiserweight where he was just excellent and practically unified the division before stepping up in weight.
The lure of the heavyweight division was too much, but the bad kicked in with the dreadful Audley Harrison fight and the broken toe excuse that cost him a lot of respect after he was defeated by Wladimir Klitschko. Then there was the downright ugly when he brawled with Chisora in a press conference in Germany; a scene that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the WWE.
The Bermondsey man knows how to get people talking and has admitted himself that he doesn’t deserve a chance to regain a portion of the heavyweight crown yet, but with his name and reputation, with a win over De Mori, he probably won’t be too far away.
His return has been long overdue, but the big question was who was going to televise it? Sky and BoxNation unsurprisingly passed, but with Haye’s star appeal it was definitely plausible it would have been picked up by someone else and shown for free.
He worked with ITV for the Carl Frampton fights last year, where nearly two million viewers saw the Belfast man dismantle Chris Avalos in February, and after his stint on popular car-crash TV show I’m A Celebrity! Get Me Out Of Here, they were the obvious favourites.
But once they passed, there was talk of it being streamed on YouTube or Spike TV, who televised some British contests in 2015. However, Dave has ended up on Dave, who are more accustomed to showing Storage Hunters and old runs of Top Gear.
Not where you’d expect a two weight world champion as well known as “The Hayemaker” to turn up, but at the end of the day, regardless of the broadcaster, you can switch the channel on Saturday to watch him for free.
Take advantage while you can because he won’t be on a free tv station for much longer, in fact it will probably just be for this fight. Haye’s name alone still carries plenty of interest and although the broadcasters have passed this time, if he puts in a half decent performance, you can bet they’ll be queueing up to get him on their channel for his next fight.
Viewing figures always show people are interested in boxing, particularly on terrestrial television and it would be fantastic to see more fights on there. Mick Hennessy has some great fights on Channel 5, which are well received and certainly helped build Tyson Fury.
ITV do a good job when they do put fights on, as happened with Carl Froch and Jean Pascal, as well as Frampton in 2015 and way before that the famous Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn rivalry. The BBC are out, and only show amateur fights in the Olympics every four years, after the disaster they had with Harrison.
With “Dave on Dave”, maybe there will be some more interest, especially if it draws in big numbers for the channel’s maiden boxing broadcast. Boxing on terrestrial TV can grow fighters into household names if done correctly and perhaps all it needs is a spark to start the ball rolling once again.
De Mori shouldn’t really provide too much of a test for Haye. Comebacks, especially after a couple of years out, are never usually a good thing, although there have been a few who have gone against the grain, but Haye seems to be adamant he’s in the last chance saloon and he wants one last go at reaching the top.
Joining with Shane McGuigan, who is now his trainer, is a step in the right direction, as he’s fast developing a big reputation as an excellent trainer. That’s not a slight against Adam Booth, who was with Haye before and is one of the best in the UK, but a change of scenery may well be what he needs.
The O2 Arena is an optimistic choice of venue to say the least, although the ever confident salesman that Haye is says he expects 14,000 in there by the time he enters the ring. I’ll believe that when we see it, but it’s unlikely to break any attendance records the O2 currently has.
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing him back in the ring, as no matter what he is entertainment. After all, only three of his fights, Ismail Abdoul, Nikolay Valuev and Klitschko went the distance, although it’s amazing to look at his record and see he has still only had 28 fights. It was 15 years ago, he won a world amateur medal in Belfast in the same tournament as Froch, so he’s been around a long time.
Will he get another crack at the big time? Probably. Is he just after one last payday before falling off his stool in the last chance saloon? Possibly. Will he lose to De Mori and ruin everything? Unlikely.
No matter what happens, I’m sure you’ll tune in to find out.
Matt Bevan is freelance journalist and contributes to several other leading publications on a weekly basis. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MBevs68.