By Matthew Robertson
David Haye defeated the Russian giant Nikolay Valuev in Nuremberg to become the WBA heavyweight world champion, and in doing so is the UK’s first since Lennox Lewis retired in 2003.
Haye, 29, won by majority decision, winning the fight on two judges’ scorecards, with the other judge scoring it even.
The Londoner, giving away seven stone to his 7ft opponent in weight, fought the perfect fight, staying on the move and making the laboured Valuev look every one of his 36 years with his speed and agility.
In addition, Haye is also only the second former cruiserweight champion to win a portion of the heavyweight crown, after four-time champion Evander Holyfield
“It means everything to me,” said Haye. “From when I was a baby, I said I would be the heavyweight world champion.
“It’s a dream come true. I’ve fought the biggest heavyweight champion and caught him with big shots.
“I made him look like an amateur. People doubted my skills, but I did enough to win.
“Here I am, heavyweight champion of the world and I’m loving it. I’m going to clean up the division.”
Approximately 10,000 fans were in attendance at the Nuremberg Arena, including a large and vociferous British contingent, who traveled from far and wide to see David do what many thought was impossible and slay the huge Valuev, who had previously only lost one fight in his career and that was a points decision.
Even more remarkable, Haye managed to do it with a suspected broken right hand, which trainer Adam Booth said gave way in the third round.
“His head is solid, the hardest thing I’ve ever hit,” said Haye. “It’s like hitting a solid brick wall.
“I’m pretty sure my hand is broken, but it’s a small price to pay for being the heavyweight champion of the world.
Haye, who was awarded the fight 116-112, 116-112, 114-114, is only the third Briton to win a world heavyweight title since Bob Fitzsimmons lost his crown to James J Jeffries in 1899.
Seemingly overnight, David Haye has become the toast of the UK and can be seen as an inspiration to youngsters up and down the nation whether or not they want to get involved in the sport.
Haye’s victory also injects some much-needed excitement into a previously declining heavyweight division which has lacked a star-studded champion for some time.
With 23 wins (21 KOs) from 24 fights, Haye now says he intends to conquer the heavyweight division.
That would mean taking on and defeating WBC champion Vitali Klitschko and his brother IBF and WBO holder Wladimir Klitschko.
But his first defence of the WBA belt will likely come against American John Ruiz, who earlier on Saturday beat German Adnan Serin in the seventh round by a technical knockout.
Haye said he envisages few problems against the former WBA champion.
“I don’t think he is the most entertaining. He has won the world title before and you don’t do that by being a bad fighter,” he added. “I will be way too fast, I will knock him out.”
These confident comments may yet prove to be big words, from an even bigger champion.