Haye must come on heavy if he is to justify bookies' faith

By JEFF POWELL

A few nights ago in New York's most Runyanesque bar, one of the men charged with preparing the opponent for David Haye's quantum leap into the heavyweight division poured me a very large drink.

Jimmy's Corner, its cracked walls hung with fight posters and signed pictures of the most famous names in the hardest game, is trans-Atlantic boxing's favourite watering hole.

The avuncular Jimmy Glenn presides over his sepia Corner until 4am every night, except when busy with his periodic day job as a boxing trainer.

Title ambition: Haye

Title ambition: Haye

So it came as something of a surprise to be served by him shortly before Monte Barrett flew to London for tonight's encounter with the Hayemaker at the O2 Arena.

Since Barrett was still up-State in his training camp, it was natural to wonder if something was amiss. 'Arrgh, Monte's all right. He'll do well enough over there,' said Jimmy, with a shrug which indicated that segment of the conversation was ended.

Brief though his remarks were, they should tell us all we need to know about the prospects for the first challenge of Haye's ascent to heavyweight.

Barrett, at 37 and having failed in his two challenges for the world title, is not so much a contender as a trial horse for would-be champions.

What Jimmy Glenn knows but cannot admit is that no matter how hard they train Barrett they cannot rekindle the belief without which no fighter can reach out for the supreme prize.

Monte is not only coming for the money. That is never the whole story about any fighting man who finds himself cast as 'the opponent'. The fancy always lingers in such a boxer that this just might be the night when he pulls off the surprise which brings his future back to life.

But as a veteran prizefighter with a 31-5 record, Barrett is coming for the purse first and foremost.

So when Haye, not without the justification of a blazing talent, pronounces himself ready to restore the heavyweight division to its former glory, it is logical to believe he will negotiate this first step without stumbling.

Yet the one part of the story which Jimmy chose not to tell concerns the chin of Britain's heir apparent to Lennox Lewis. Haye is capable of smiting any man in the ring but the heavier the opponent, the greater the risk that he might be felled first.

In the course of unifying the world cruiserweight championship in Paris, Haye had to get off the floor to beat ringworn Jean-Marc Mormeck.

Seconds out: Barrett and Haye do battle at the O2

Seconds out: Barrett and Haye do battle at the O2

If nothing else, Barrett, with 17 knockouts to his name, will bring the greater power of a genuine heavyweight to tonight's argument. That, plus Haye's speed and repertoire of punches, make this contest worth the ticket money.

Haye is rightly an overwhelming favourite, since this is not the night nor the opponent to scupper so many well-laid plans.

But if Barrett puts down or even wobbles Haye, there will be much head-scratching among the bookmakers as they set the odds for the Londoner's proposed challenge next spring to double world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.

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