One year ago this month, David Haye did absolutely nothing in his heavyweight title unification fight with Wladimir Klitschko, the real champion, except embarrass himself.
Instead of giving an honest effort -- after spending a couple years verbally trashing Klitschko and his fellow heavyweight champion brother, Vitali, and threatening to do all kinds of over-the-top, violent things to Wladimir when they got into the ring -- Haye flopped, ran and fought scared.
It was one of the most pathetic performances in a major heavyweight title fight in recent boxing history, and it was made worse by Haye's excuse that he lost because of a sore pinkie toe, which he couldn't wait to show off during his postfight interviews.
Haye was lambasted and mocked for his utter failure to show up or give a legitimate effort, and for then compounding it with his laughable excuse -- especially after he had done so much yapping.
But for as bad as Haye was against Klitschko, it was the exact opposite on Saturday. Haye came out of retirement (shocking, right?) and looked sharp and sensational in a fifth-round knockout of British countryman Dereck Chisora at rainy Upton Park in London, where roughly 30,000 showed up to watch what turned out to be quite an entertaining heavyweight scrap.
Although it was exciting, it was all Haye, who took the fight after the crazy bottle-smashing brawl he engaged Chisora in at the news conference following Chisora's points loss to Vitali in February.
The British public -- and frankly, many boxing fans around the world -- wanted to see Haye mix it up with Chisora, even if the British boxing authorities refused to be involved because of the brawl. That left intrepid promoter Frank Warren to bring in the Luxembourg Boxing Federation to handle what was essentially an outlaw event in England.
That just added to the anticipation and intrigue of the bout. But soon after it began, Haye began to make clear that it was going to be his night.
Haye moved -- which is a lot different than the running he did against Wladimir -- boxed, jabbed and landed some wicked right hands and left hooks. Had that Haye shown up against Klitschko, maybe things would have been a lot different. Yes, it was Chisora he was facing, not Klitschko, but Haye deserves credit for the knockout nonetheless.
Haye can't ever erase the Klitschko loss, but he at least went a long way toward restoring his shattered reputation with an excellent performance and a quality win against a legitimate opponent. In fact, he iced Chisora in five rounds five months after Chisora went the distance with Vitali, who has one of the best knockout percentages in heavyweight history.
Haye, the former cruiserweight champion who was a cut 210 pounds on Saturday, gave up 37 pounds to Chisora. But Haye was also much faster and, obviously, as it turned out, the heavier hitter. It was a recipe for a wipeout.
Chisora tried, desperately at times, so give him credit for that. But he couldn't land the big shot -- he was trying hard to land a chopping overhand right -- or deal with Haye's effective movement. Haye, who threw so very little against Klitschko, was much more active Saturday.
He landed 63 of 249 punches (25 percent), according to CompuBox statistics, while Chisora was credited with landing just 33 of 144 blows (23 percent). The most important blows Haye landed came in the fifth round, when he closed the show in style.
He was very clearly winning through four rounds, although it didn't look like he was about to stop Chisora. But then came a dynamite left-right combination that floored Chisora, which was surprising considering his reputation for having such an outstanding chin.
Chisora (15-4, 9 KOs) climbed off the mat, but Haye (26-2, 24 KOs) seemed to sense he was finished. Chisora held some and tried to punch back, but it was futile. Haye, perhaps releasing a year's worth of frustration since the loss to Klitschko, went for the kill. He landed a brutal five-punch combination (including a sick left hook) that floored Chisora for the second time.
Again, Chisora showed a warrior's heart by making it to his feet, but he was done, and referee Luis Pabon called it off with a second left in the round.
Haye deserved his celebration in the ring after the fight. This time, he had talked the talk and, finally, walked the walk.
"I was healthy, I was fit and I was able to do what I was unable to do a year ago," Haye said afterward. "No injuries. This was the real 'Hayemaker.'"
Hopefully, it was, because an active Haye fighting with that kind of appealing style is good for the heavyweight division and all of boxing.
Haye wants a fight with Vitali, which could happen next year. Vitali is scheduled to face Manuel Charr on Sept. 8 in Moscow, and depending on whether Vitali wins political office in Ukraine in the October elections, he might retire. If Vitali keeps fighting and beats Charr, a fight with Haye is a natural.
Haye, doing his part to make it happen, returned to his Klitschko-baiting ways. We'll cut him some slack, given the emotion of his victory over Chisora.
"If he has some balls, he'll get in the ring with me," Haye said of Vitali. "I believe my punching power is far superior than anyone's on the planet."
The mouth, obviously, still roars, and the toe is feeling good.
Even if Haye doesn't get a fight with Vitali -- and even though he looked so good against Chisora, he still doesn't merit a rematch with Wladimir -- there are other fights he could make with other contenders, if he's willing.
Haye is only 31 and should have some good years left ahead him.
"The Hayemaker's back," he said.
Yes, he is. It was toe-tal domination against Chisora. And with it comes a break from the toe jokes.
Well, how about one more?
Congratulations to Haye on his vic-toe-ry.