David Haye: Appetite for destruction

Paul Zanon
17/04/2016 8:15am


After a three-and-a-half year lay-off, David Haye returned to the ring in destructive fashion in January, smashing Mark De Mori with a thumping overhand right. The blow left the Australian tangled between the bottom two ropes unaware of where he was or what had just happened. Haye on the other hand knew exactly where he was – he was back. 

Ever since Haye was a kid, he made an informal promise to himself to retire at the age of 30. However, the plan didn’t unravel as expected. Haye explained to Boxing Monthly. “I was dead set on sticking to that date. I always said I’d retire before my 31st birthday. That’s why I pushed for the Wladimir Klitschko fight as soon as I could, because I wanted to fight him in advance of my retirement. A lot of fighters would have held onto that WBA title, making defence after defence against lesser opponents, just to make money, but my plan was to beat Wladimir Klitschko and then retire having unified the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions. There would have been nothing left to do. I didn’t anticipate losing that fight and that kind of messed things up!”

Not long after retiring, Wladimir’s older brother Vitali decided he wanted to fight Haye. It might have had something to do with the fact that he was still angry at Haye for wearing a t-shirt which featured him standing over the Klitschko brothers decapitated bodies, with Haye holding their severed heads. Come February 2012, Haye was hoping to stir up some media attention between himself and Vitali, which would act as the catalyst for his comeback. That evening certainly achieved that goal, but not in a manner he’d hoped for against an opponent he’d intended to fight. Haye explained how the evening panned out.

“I went over to commentate [in Munich] for Boxnation for the [Dereck] Chisora versus Vitali fight. I didn’t go there to have a punch up with Chisora, but that’s what ended up happening. After that, Vitali said, ‘You fight Dereck Chisora and I’ll fight the winner.’ I thought to myself, ‘OK’.

“Chisora had just fought 12 hard rounds with Vitali and gave him all the problems he could handle. I’m very confident in my ability and, if Vitali Klitschko struggled with someone for 12 rounds, I’d knock em out in five rounds. I’m that confident in my punch power that I took Frank Warren up on his offer for a one-fight deal. In and out – bash him up – take my money.

“After beating Chisora, I knew I wanted to win the heavyweight championship of the world again. Unfortunately, I was unable to get back in the ring. I’d gone into training camps getting ready for fights and had a number of injuries and a real bad string of luck.”

Despite the 2014 media frenzy which announced Haye’s second retirement after having to twice pull out of a scheduled fight with Tyson Fury, he assured Boxing Monthly that retirement was not his intention. “The whole time I was injured I was aiming to come back. I wanted to fight straight away, but when you have shoulder surgery, you can’t rush the rehabilitation. You have to let nature take its course, which was very frustrating.”

As the shoulder repaired, Haye, after an amicable split with former trainer Adam Booth, was on the lookout for a new coach. The choice came as a bit of a surprise to the general public, but to Haye it was a home from home decision. “I’d seen Shane [McGuigan] over the years and really took note of what he’d done with Carl Frampton – very neat, very tidy, power punching, explosive, good footwork – which was kind of similar to me. The fact that Shane had only trained Carl, kind of reminded me of my relationship with Adam Booth. Adam started off as almost an unknown trainer and the first fighter he trained full-time, me, went on to become world champion. That happened with Shane and that’s rare that you get a coach who trains one person and that one person becomes a legitimate world champion.

“Christmas 2014 I met up with Shane and talked about my future, my injury, what I’d been up to and where I’d like to get to. We seemed to be on the same page and I could tell straight away that this was a person who would be 110% dedicated to helping me achieve my goals.” 

McGuigan’s dedication for the De Mori fight was abundantly visible for everyone to see, as a video clip on Youtube showed Haye elevated from the ground holding onto a steel bar, whilst McGuigan delivered a series of crunching hooks to Haye’s midsection. Apparently, there was method behind this madness. [Haye laughed]. “That was Shane’s idea! De Mori is known for landing to the body, so we were trying to show him that he’d need to bring something other than that to the table.”

Come fight night, Haye barely came off the clutch, never mind motion through the gears. It was a predictable result, but not one which Haye anticipated or ever anticipates with his opponents. Haye explained, “I always prepare for the best version of my opponent come fight night. I had 10 hard rounds in me to go to war. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to show any of that, but fortunately I came out of the fight healthy, unscathed and ready for the next one.

“The reality is this - when I hit someone, they stay hit. The referee doesn’t need to step in. When I hit De Mori he was the unfortunate person who had to take all my pent up frustration of the last three-and-a-half years. All I need is one clean punch, whether it be on the chin or the temple. When you’re dazed, I’ll hit you with three or four more shots to put you to sleep.”

Physically, Haye looked different walking into the ring. Would it be rude to say he looked like a natural heavyweight? After years of shrugging off the tag of ‘blown-up cruiserweight’, natural heavyweight is a befitting description for Haye as he weighed in at 227lbs against De Mori. It’s worth noting that he only weighed 210lbs against Wladimir Klitschko.

Haye shared the science and mind-set behind the adjustment. “I’m not dieting down to 15 stone like I used to do. In terms of injury prevention, I have a little bit more body fat and that will certainly help absorb the punches, but will also assist in the packing of the power of the punch. 

“In terms of food and taking on the correct nutrients, it takes a lot of dedication. I need to eat every two-and-a-half hours, which is frustrating as hell. It feels like I’m constantly eating all day long, especially as I’m a slow eater! My alarm goes off and it feels that by the time I’ve finished one meal, I’m getting ready for another one.” 

The change in Haye’s physical structure is not the only modification in his overall set-up. He’s joined forces with Goodwin Promotions, which seems (so far) to be working out well. “The whole evening went really well. Goodwin Promotions did a great undercard, with some unbeaten prospects on the show. Always good to see young talent coming through. Steve Goodwin is the third largest boxing promoter in the country and has a hell of a lot of respect from the boxing fans and community. He’s a really nice guy, very trustworthy and he and his team, such as Kevin Campion, are very easy to work with. Steve delivered exactly what he said he would and I’m very happy with him.” 

Probably the biggest shock delivered for the De Mori fight, was the announcement that the television channel ‘Dave,’ would be providing coverage for the fight. As soon as this was announced, Haye became the butt of a number of jokes, however, it was in fact Haye and Dave who would have the last laugh. 

Haye explained his reasons for the unusual partnering. “Dave isn’t a channel that most people know off the top of their head. It’s the sort of channel people actively have to look for on their television. They knew they weren’t a sports channel and, although it was completely out of their remit, they saw the value of it. They bought into my return to the big screen and the potential entertainment value which came with that return. Looks like we both gambled and both came out on top.” 

Three million viewers watched the fight, in what was reportedly Dave’s second highest viewing of any programme aired on their television channel. With a near on perfect 16-35-year-old demographic for boxing, it will be interesting to see who else decides to take the sporting plunge with Dave next.

Looking into the future, Haye comes across with a great air of confidence and focus. His shoulder is apparently fully healed and his sights are firmly set on his next stepping stones to achieve his ultimate goal. Unbeaten Arnold ‘The Cobra’ Gjergjaj (29-0, 21 KOs) is the next man to stand in his way at the O2 Arena on 21 May.

The prospect of meeting newly crowned IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua certainly excites Haye, although he believes Joshua may not want to cross paths with him just yet. Haye explained to Boxing Monthly. “I was commentating for Sky Box Office at the Joshua-Whyte fight. I thought [Joshua] boxed great and answered a lot of questions. When he got hit on the chin a lot of people thought he’d fall over, but that wasn’t the case [David laughed]. Nobody had actually punched back at him yet up to that point! It was nice to see that, although his legs went a little bit, he sucked it up. Anyone who gets hit by someone who weighs 18 stone, their legs are going to wobble. It’s what you do after that. You can either run away scared or bite down on your mouthpiece and go for more, and that’s exactly what he did.

“I didn’t see anything that night which I believe would worry me. I’d love the opportunity to show that my superior speed, athleticism, punch rate and experience will match his superior size, weight, strength and youth. I believe my hand trumps his hand. However, I’m not sure how confident his people would be to put him in there with me.

“I fancy a piece of anybody who’s got a world title! Doesn’t matter if it’s Fury’s WBA, Wilder’s WBC or [now Joshua’s] IBF. Once I have that belt, I can start to have those big fights. That’s what I want.”

As our chat drew to a close, the sound of plates clunking and cutlery being pulled out of drawers could be heard. Haye explained, “Sorry - it’s that time!” He was, of course, referring to his two-and-a-half hour feeding zone. On that savoury note, the interview was concluded.