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The Exciting Cruiserweight Division: Say what?

BY David Payne ON January 20, 2005
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British boxing fans turn to the traditionally sleepy suburb of the Cruiserweight division tonight when flashy puncher David Haye tackles stubborn workhorse Garry Delaney in Brentford, and 500 miles away in Bridgend, Welsh starlet Enzo Maccarinelli fights American Rich LeMontagne in a bout ludicrously described as a world title fight.

For Haye, 11-1 (11), the fight represents his second since defeat to gnarled veteran Carl Thompson, 33-6 (25), back in September in arguably the most anticipated British fight of 2004. A torrid affair, the fight lasted just five rounds and in truth Haye probably just two as the youngster naively tried to overwhelm Thompson early. He came mighty close but his lack of stamina, having contested just 20 professional rounds prior to the contest, came back to haunt him and he was stopped.

Fighting Thompson in his eleventh contest was variously viewed as ambitious through to a mismatch, the consensus view that Thompson was 'shot' giving way to a post-fight suspicion Haye was over-hyped and under-trained. Whatever your conclusion, the result illustrated the sport's fickleness; the once golden boy of British boxing, with the film star smile, the unbeaten record and the BBC contract now found himself beaten, maligned and dumped, along with professional boxing, by the network that thought they'd signed a superstar.

So what will the Delaney fight prove?

Firstly, that Delaney 31-9-1 (17), is never going to make the Cruiserweight limit again having scaled 230lbs at yesterday’s weigh-in, more importantly if Haye's much vaunted power is a myth or reality and crucially whether Haye has learned from previous mistakes, i.e. developed some stamina. Depending on how much pride Delaney has left, he displayed plenty in rising off the canvas seven times versus Maccarinelli, I believe he can reach the final bell in a fight disappointingly set for just six rounds at heavyweight. Delaney, though tough, is clearly not the motivated force he once was and therefore unlikely to press the action sufficiently to test Haye's self-belief or stamina.

Which is a shame, because it would be naive to believe a leap to leading domestic names like Hobson, Thompson and Nelson would be successful from such an uncompetitive springboard. The British Boxing Board of Control appear to agree, moving to nominate Haye to fight John 'Buster' Keeton in an eliminator bout before any tilt at capable British champion Mark Hobson.

Meanwhile, fellow prospect Enzo Maccarinelli, 19-1 (14) continues his quest to establish his own validity as a contender in the division and specifically as a credible foe for WBO champion and Sports Network stable mate Johnny Nelson. The Welshman, like Haye with the BBC, has enjoyed sustained support from his promotional handlers and satellite broadcaster Sky Sports, both of who have presented Maccarinelli as a puncher with potential.

The WBU strap he defends for the sixth time tonight is of the 'low-rent' variety and provides little kudos to fight fans in the UK and certainly not across the pond. In truth, the fight is no more a world title fight than the half dozen bouts appearing on the under card. However, this is the model Frank Warren’s Sports Network employs to build support, profile and experience for their young protégés and it has proven to work for stable mates Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton.

Maccarinelli, in reality, is a work in progress, despite the 'world-champion' tag shamelessly bestowed on him - but he does possess telling power, strength and appears willing to learn. However, his recent contest with stubborn Belgian Ismail Abdoul suggested that power could be overstated and the youngster appeared flustered when pressed, though Abdoul lacked the ambition to pursue it.

Tonight he faces an aggressive, walk forward fighter with an available chin and a mixed record at anything approaching world level. Selected to appear physically aesthetic and credible on paper, LeMontagne, 29-6-1 (24), will doubtless try and unsettle the youngster early, but he's seven years removed from his best form, which for context was taking three rounds from Vassily Jirov, and 30 months since his knockout of 'chinny' American prospect Michael Bennett.

If he catches Maccarinelli on the 'button' a shock is possible. Maccarinelli has been flattened when fancied before against awkward Lee Swaby and renowned puncher Bruce Scott. Whilst that looks increasingly unlikely with Maccarinelli the more seasoned he becomes, LeMontagne is expected to meet the Welshman at centre ring and it will be interesting to see how he reacts if the American succeeds in backing him up. In all likelihood, Maccarinelli should dispatch LeMontagne inside six rounds.

Maccarinelli's recent record does also offer a form guide for the Haye/Delaney encounter, having dropped Delaney seven times en route to an eighth round stoppage a year ago. The cynics suggest this contributed to the six round distance Haye faces Delaney over, diluting any direct comparison of their performances should Haye fail to stop the rugged Londoner.

But it is just such comparisons that inject meaning and interest to tonight's contests. The boxing forums have sizzled with the exchanges between the camps of David Haye and British champion Mark Hobson in the past year and they continue to buzz with debate over who will emerge from the cruiserweight pack were they to meet or tackle the senior citizens in the division, Thompson and Nelson.

With Haye potentially two fights from tackling Hobson and Maccarinelli maybe just two away from a summer showdown with Nelson, the British fans will be hoping they're discussing real fights instead of mythical match-ups come the year end.

Interesting Cruiserweights, what next an undisputed world middleweight champion from Britain?

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