He’s fought the likes of Nikolai Valuev and Wladimir Klitschko over the years, but at the age of 36, David Haye could be about to face the toughest test of his career.
The former heavyweight champion is taking on WBC cruiserweight title holder Tony Bellew in front of a capacity crowd at The O2 on March 4, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
So, how does he rate his chances ahead of the fight? Pretty highly, it turns out…
loaded spoke to Haye about his training, his game plan for the fight and his plans to mount another challenge for the title in the future.
loaded: Thanks for talking to us David. How’s training going?
Haye: Yeah I’m feeling good. Training’s going well, I’m feeling healthy and rested. One thing I’ve wanted to focus on is rest. You know, since I’ve got older I feel like I need to have more rest now. So I’m taking time out to make sure I get minimum 10 hours – maybe 8 in the evening, and in-between my first and second session I try and get an hour in . I just need to crash out, and I’m definitely feeling that I’ve got more energy and I recover from sessions a lot better. I just feel a lot more alive and awake. I also try and wake up probably an hour before the sun comes up…. I’ve based myself in South Beach, Miami, so I go to the beach an hour before the sun comes up and do my meditation on the beach. As the sun first comes up, I keep my eyes locked to the sun for the first fifteen, twenty minutes – as long as I can look at it directly. I feel that connects me to the Earth and just gives me the day’s energy.
I’m training at the world famous 5th Street boxing gym in Miami, and that’s obviously where the late, great Muhammed Ali did his training. If it’s good enough for The Greatest, it’s good enough for me. I can see why so many people train there too. It’s such a great atmosphere, the perfect temperature, and everyone there is so health conscious – everyone spends half their time topless on the beach!
loaded: Are you confident you’ll be ready when the fight comes round?
Haye: Yeah, for sure. For this fight, I know what [Bellew’s] skill sets are, I know what his weaknesses are. I’m focused solely on his strengths. I know what doesn’t do well, but I’m completely ignoring that; I’m just looking at everything he does well. Every punch he throws well is what I’m focused on, and hoping that he only does all of the good things that he does. If he does, he might hear the end of the first round, and if he doesn’t he’s going to get knocked out in the first 15-20 seconds. He does obvious, stupid things in defence, and it could be ‘good night’ for him real quick, but I’m only anticipating the very best version of Tony Bellew turning up. If that does happen, then he may last a couple of rounds – maybe.
loaded: It sounds like you’ve a pretty clear game plan.
Haye: Yeah the game plan is pretty easy – just hit him on the chin. It sounds pretty trivial to say it like that, but that’s exactly what it is. I punch so hard… my jabs are harder than the right hands he’s ever taken in his entire career. My jab is the hardest punch he’s ever taken – that’s my jab. Left hook and he’s asleep. Any time my hand grazes in and around his chin, or even the top of his head or around his ears, he’s going to sleep. Everything my fists touch turns to dust: It sounds pretty dramatic saying it like that, but it’s one of the facts of life.
loaded: So how do you see it going on the night?
Haye: Look, there’s a reason I’ve knocked out 90% of my opponents. Only two heavyweights have gone the distance with me, that’s Nikolay Valuev who’s 7’2” and Wladimir Klitschko who’s 6’ 7”. These are big guys, one’s 18 stone and the other’s 24 stone. These guys are the only ones that have gone the distance with me, the rest have been knocked out. Now, I’m fighting someone who weighs a stone lighter than I do, and I’m faster than him, and I’ve got longer arms than him, and I punch harder. I genuinely can’t see what he or his team think they can do, other than picking up the big fat paycheck; that’s the only up side of this fight for him – as he’s being stretchered out the ring, he’ll have a big lump on money deposited in his account.
loaded: Do you have a message for him?
Haye: Yeah, just to enjoy his time with his family. Really spend some quality time with them, ‘cos it’s not going to be nice from him on March 4. Just enjoy your time. That’s basically it really. It sounds a bit gruesome I know…
loaded: I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but Tony Bellew had a cameo in the Rocky film Creed. Would you ever consider taking on a movie role like that?
Haye: I watched his performance in Creed, and I thought as far as the performance – playing a completely obnoxious Liverpudlian scumbag – he did fantastically well. He just had to be himself, that was it. His actual role was, ‘just be yourself’. He probably didn’t have a script, he just had to be a complete dickhead – just be yourself, basically. He did it to a T, and everyone that watched it hated him and wanted his to lose, just like they do in real life right now. I personally wouldn’t want to play a complete scumbag like that myself. I’d like to play something that was completely different to just me and my personality: that’s what acting actually is – to be someone different to yourself.
loaded: Obviously, there’s another big fight coming up as well as yours. You’ve said you want to fight Anthony Joshua in the past. How do you rate his chances against Wladamir Klitschko in April?
Haye: I rate his chances very well. Wladamir Klitschko… I think he showed in his last fight he isn’t the force he once was five or six years ago. He doesn’t throw any punches, and in boxing throwing punches is quite important. He refuses to throw punches now; he’s so worried about getting knocked out. He doesn’t want to engage in battle, he wants to jab and grab and hold, which is a horrible thing to watch. I definitely feel that, you know, Joshua he’s a younger guy, no miles on the clock. It should definitely work in his favour. He should win. I’ve got a feeling Klitschko’s going to get disqualified for holding.
loaded: You’ve obviously fought Klitschko before. Have you got any advice for Joshua?
Haye: Go out there and press the action. Just throw plenty of punches. Don’t try and get into a fencing match, because you’ll lose; that’s all Klitschko does. Don’t counterpunch, he’ll just wait for you to stop punching and hold you. Come at him punching and he should get disqualified in the first two or three rounds. Don’t stand off him. Josh is a big guy, he should use his superior strength to move Klitschko around the ring.
loaded: You’re potentially in with a shot of the heavyweight title after that match. Is that something you’re thinking about?
Haye: Yeah, the winner of the Joshua Kiltscho fight will be very interesting to me. Hopefully it’ll be Joshua obviously. Also, if Tyson Fury wants to make a comeback, that’d definitely be a fight I’d be interested in. If he can somehow get over the alleged failed drugs test that he’s had recently, I’d be interested.
loaded: So you’re confident you’d be able to mount a strong challenging for the title?
Haye: Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ll have a belt around my waist at some point [in 2017], hopefully against one of the big boys.
loaded: David, thank you for speaking to us.
David Haye takes on Tony Bellew at the O2 Arena in London on March 4.