The City & My Life|AFP – British challenger David Haye claimed the WBA heavyweight title on Saturday with a shock majority decision win against Russian giant Nikolai Valuev.
The 29-year-old from London is the new world champion after only three heavyweight fights, having stepped up from cruiserweight as the judges scored the 12-round fight 114-114 even, 116-112 and 116-112 in Haye’s favour.
“Ever since I was little, I said that one day I would be heavyweight champion of the world,” said Haye.
With superior footwork, Haye kept moving away from the Russian’s close-range punches and denied the 2.13m Valuev the chance to hang on and wear him down with his sheer size.
This was only Valuev’s second defeat – after losing to Ruslan Chagaev in April 2007 – and Haye gave away seven stones (44kg) in weight against the Russian and was 23cm shorter than the former champion.
Haye made a bright start, looking for weaknesses in Valuev’s defence and landed several shots to the upper body and one to the face while the Russian giant took up his usual position shuffling around the middle of the ring.
There was a flurry of punches thrown towards the end of the second and Valuev stepped up at the start of the third, but it was Haye who caught the Russian with a quick left, right.
The Russian started the fourth with a mark to his right cheek and attempted to put Haye in the corner, but the Briton again wriggled out of danger, landed an arcing left-hook and kept moving to avoid the close-range punches.
With Valuev throwing countless punches, but landing few, Haye caught the Russian with another right, left, right combination in the fifth.
A heavy left to the side of the face from Haye caught Valuev before he followed up with a left, right combination at the start of the seventh while the Russian caught the challenger with several punches to shade the round.
With his corner urging him not to drop his pace to that of the slower Russian, Haye was starting to tire in the eighth as his opponent’s sheer size started to show signs of wearing him down.
A left hook got through Valuev’s guard in the ninth before Haye caught the Russian with a roundhouse right flush in the face and a big right-hook in the tenth rocked Valuev backwards, but the Russian was landing several of his own.
The decisive blows came in the twelfth round when Haye’s two left-hooks wobbled Valuev as the Briton finished with a flourish and Haye punched the air with delight at the final bell.
Valuev’s last knock-out was against Monte Barrett in October 2006 and he never looked like putting the Briton on the canvas, while Haye had only two heavyweight fights, with wins against Monte Barrett and Tomasz Bonin, before landing the world title.
Valuev now two defeats, 50 wins with 34 knock-outs and a non-contest from 1999 on his record, while Haye has 23 wins, 21 knock-outs and a single defeat to Carl Thompson at cruiserweight on his 24 fight record.