'Chisora will rough up Usyk': David Haye interview
Photos: Alex Burstow/Getty Images
Ezio Prapotnich speaks to former cruiserweight and heavyweight world title holder David Haye about his colourful career, and his role managing former foe Dereck Chisora...
During his fighting days, former unified cruiserweight and WBA heavyweight champion David Haye was a polarizing figure, equally loved and hated, often controversial and politically incorrect in his goading and taunting of opponents in the build up to his fights.
Nevertheless, it is undeniable that his impact on the sport has been - overall - beneficial. Although falling short in his challenge against Wladimir Klitschko, Haye managed to inject new vitality into a stale heavyweight division and, most importantly, grabbed the attention of the casual fans.
When he took on Nikolai Valuev for the WBA title 10 years ago, it was the first time in a while you could just get out of the door and walk into your local pub to watch boxing. And the pub was rammed.
Today, the 39-year-old looks comfortable in his new skin as a manager and promoter. Love for the sport is still obviously running in his blood as are Haye's championship dreams and ambitions which he hopes to fulfil by guiding former foe Derek Chisora to a world title.
BM: Looking back at your career, do you feel you left a bigger legacy as cruiserweight or heavyweight?
DH: If you ask this question to the hardcore boxing fans, they will say cruiserweight, while regular sport fans would probably answer they don’t know what a cruiserweight is. Personally, I agree with the hardcore fans. I won more titles at cruiser and was more dominant in the division. My campaign there was longer and more successful than the heavyweight one.
BM: What do you consider to be your best performance and who was your toughest opponent?
DH: I have one answer to both questions: Jean-Marc Mormeck. That’s the fight where I became the fighter I always wanted to be: a tough world-class competitor. It propelled me from York Hall and Wembley Arena to the biggest possible stage. All the lessons I learned from the [Carl] Thompson loss and all those hard European title defences came together that night. I had to overcome adversity and come from behind after suffering a knockdown. I was on foreign soil with no big promoter behind me and I knew I had to knock him out to win. My game plan was built around that premise and we pulled it off. As an opponent, Mormeck was all wrong for me. He had a style I didn’t like and had struggled with since the amateurs: a short come-forward fighter with a good inside game and chin.
BM: What do you answer to your detractors who claim you just went for the money in your heavyweight spell while taking the least possible risks?
DH: I disagree. I went virtually straight into a title shot at the new weight and won it. Then I was forced to take the mandatory against [John] Ruiz and knocked him out. The [Audley] Harrison fight happened due to popular demand and I gave the fans what they wanted. Finally, I had the unification against Klitschko. If I just wanted to make money, I would have not taken that fight, kept knocking WBA contenders out and probably still be champion to this day. No matter what you do, someone will always be unhappy.
BM: Was your comeback motivated mostly by economical reasons or did you simply miss the excitement of the game too much?
DH: It was driven by the ambition to regain the heavyweight title, as all my boxing heroes from [Evander] Holyfield to [George] Foreman had done before. I had a couple of tune-ups and then took the [Tony] Bellew fight as I truly believed it would have been my stepping stone to another title shot. It made sense from any point of view. Sky wanted it plus he was the WBC cruiserweight champion and just did the Creed movie. Unfortunately, my reflexes and timing had gone by then. I was a shell of my former self in the last fight. But I went out on my shield. I didn’t lose because of lack of training or trying. I gave 100 per cent, same as he did, only my best was not as good as his. I can live with that.
BM: One thing that both your fans and your detractors agree on is that you have always been a great self-promoter. Was it natural for you to move into a promoting role?
DH: I think so. I was a talking point not only because of what I did in the ring but for the hype I created and the stuff I said in the build-up, which did not always cast me as the good guy but made people interested. The key was that whether you loved me or wanted to see me lose, you would tune in. But calling me a promoter does not do justice to everything I do. I manage my fighters, look after their nutrition, training, motivation and anything else that can help them to achieve their goals.
BM: When Dereck Chisora approached you asking you to become his manager, he seemed to be at a dead point in his career. What did you see in him that convinced you he could still perform at top level? Also, had the hatchet between the two of you already been buried at that point?
DH: Our beef was over ever since we had our fight. Actually, the fact I knew how it felt to fight him, how strong and tough he was, is part of the reasons why I accepted the job. I knew he had not yet shown his true potential. Big, strong and gifted but not living the life, showing up out of shape, unmotivated and using the wrong tactics... I asked myself how he would fare if someone kept him on track and looked after every aspect of his career. I made it very clear to him what the deal was, he trusted me and has done everything asked of him. I think we have done a good job with each other so far. He lost the fight against [Dillian] Whyte but was ahead on two cards even with a two points deduction. If anything, that convinced me even more I made right choice. He probably gave only his 80% so far and I think we will see the remaining 20 per cent in the next fight, when he shocks the world.
BM: Talking about which, you made clear Oleksandr Usyk is your next target, possibly with the WBO title on the line. How does Derek beat him? Is it size his only advantage?
DH: Work rate will also be a factor. Usyk is used to work at range against opponents that try to box him. Dereck will drag him into a street fight. He is significantly stronger, able and willing to take punches to land his own and will rough him up at close quarters. I doubt Oleksandr will have twelve rounds of that type of fight in him.
BM: Did you have an active influence in the selection of new trainer Steve Broughton? Also, are you happy with what you saw so far?
DH: I worked with Steve at the end of my career and always liked him. He is a true professional. He is not one for the limelight and the cameras, he just wants to come in the gym and do his work. I believe it’s a perfect match for Dereck and I think they clicked. It showed against David Price.
BM: Finally, your pick for Ruiz Jr vs Joshua.
DH: I pick Joshua to use his superior size, reach and athleticism and win at long range while also holding, leaning on and clinching if Ruiz gets too close. I think it will be a very simple, clean and tactical fight. I doubt it will be entertaining but I don’t want it to be. I just want Anthony to get the win this time and worrying about looking good next time.
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