|Doghouse Boxing exclusive: The many shades of David Haye - 'Hayemaker' talks to John J. Raspanti
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Sept 19, 2013)
David “Hayemaker” Haye
"My parents said I had the look of a boxer as soon as arrived. I had a black eye, clenched fists, and looked like I’d just done 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.”
Former heavyweight champion of the world
With David “Hayemaker” Haye you get a little bit of everything - movie-star looks, a strapping six-foot-three inch frame, charisma, a little boldness, and a bit of controversy.
In a recent interview, Haye discussed his short retirement, why he returned to boxing, and his upcoming battle with Tyson Fury on September 28.
Unlike many fighters before him, Haye’s parents supported his decision to fight. He first entered a boxing ring at age ten. The place was the Fitzroy Lodge Boxing Club in Lambeth, South London. By 15, Haye was competing on the international amateur circuit, exhibiting a fast learning curve. The men that mattered at the gym noticed the skinny lad with power in his right hand.
That hand soon had fans calling him "The Hayemaker” and helped him win the silver medal at the World Amateur Boxing Championships in 2001.
He turned pro the following year, winning his first ten fights by knockout. Boxing people buzzed about his power-until he ran out of gas and was stopped by veteran Carl Thompson. Then critics questioned his stamina. Haye soldiered on, capturing the European cruiserweight belt in 2006. A year later he halted Jean Marc Mormeck for a world title in the same weight class. Haye kissed the canvas in round four, but used his signature right-hand punch to knock out his opponent.
Haye planned to move up to the heavyweight division in 2007, but was coaxed by powerful promoter Frank Warren to participate in a cruiserweight unification fight. His opponent, Enzo Maccarinelli, could punch, but Haye used his athletic prowess to corner Maccarinelli in round two.
When the “Hayemaker” landed, Maccarinelli went to sleep.
With nothing left to prove in the cruiserweight division, Haye zeroed in on the heavyweights. Since he was a young boy, he had dreamed of winning the heavyweight championship of the world like his idol, former three-time champion Muhammad Ali.
"Ali stuck to his principles even though the whole country turned their backs on him,” Haye remarked in a story written by David Clerihew of Men'sHealth. co.uk. “You have to respect that.”
Haye’s chance came when he challenged gigantic Russian heavyweight king Nikolay Valuev to a fight. Valuev, who stands 7-feet tall, outweighed Haye by nearly one hundred pounds. The bout predictably was billed as David versus Goliath. Haye managed to keep the big man at bay for most of the contest, uncorking a short left hook in the last round. The punch caught Valuev on the button causing him to shake from head to toe. Haye jumped on his stricken foe, but failed to land a stunning blow.
The close fight elicited one of the oldest arguments in boxing.
Would the judges reward the more aggressive Valuev? Or would it be Haye, with his occasional bursts of boxing and power?
As his name was announced as the split-decision victor, a vindicated Haye screamed and raised his arms.
David Haye was the new WBA heavyweight champion of the world. The greatest victory of his career had been achieved through a mixture of guile, nerve and cleverness.
None of this success came by chance. His career had been mapped out between him and his trainer, Adam Booth, since his first professional bout. The two men were clearly working off the same page. Their goals were pretty simple: acquire world titles, huge paydays and retire at age 31.
Haye defended his heavyweight crown twice in 2010 by stopping John Ruiz and Audley Harrison – before losing a lopsided decision to WBC and WBO heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko. Haye had morphed into a modern day Ali to build up the fight. His promoting worked, but his performance fell flat in front of the biggest audience of his career.
Four months after his loss to Klitschko, Haye retired from professional boxing - having maintained for years that he would step away from the sport by age 30. He had missed his goal by a year.
The decision was all part of the master plan, he said, conceived when he was a child.
Haye kept himself busy by appearing on numerous British television shows. He let down his guard - allowing audiences to see another side of his personality. He spent more time with his wife Natasha and son Cassius, but his life was missing something.
He soon discovered what it was.
“I've been boxing since I was ten years of age and it has been a huge part of my life,“ Haye told this writer. “At first I believed I had achieved enough, and was ready to hang up my gloves, but now I realize there is still a lot left for me to achieve. There are still titles to win and big fights on the table. Nothing gets me excited like the prospect of being involved in a big fight and then potentially winning a world title.”
So in essence, the fire is back?
“I got the hunger again,” Haye said. “I wanted to compete again, and, also, I looked at the fact that I was only thirty-two and said to myself,“I don't want to be wasting my peak athletic years out of the ring. So the idea was to go back to boxing, see what kind of fighter I could be in my early thirties, and then, hopefully, bring a world title or two back to England.”
There are some in sports, Michael Jordan comes to mind, who can leave their chosen profession and return, hungrier than ever. The time away can cleanse the mind and spirit, invigorate and energize.
Does Haye feel that his absence has made him more determined?
“I think so. I believe the break was good for me,” said Haye. “It allowed me to go elsewhere and experience different places, explore a few different avenues. It gave me an insight into life without boxing.
“And, although one day I will take to that life and really make something of it, I realized it wasn't what I wanted to be doing right now. I want to be boxing and I want to be doing what I do best,” he added.
Another example of the new and improved Haye is his training camp. For most of his professional career, Haye has trained alone. Now, he’s sharing a gym with a group of talented fighters – plus inviting fight fans to come and see him.
Haye returned to the ring for the first time since the Klitschko debacle last July to face ranking contender Dereck Chisora. Thirty thousand spectators braved the wind and rain to witness Haye dispatch Chirsora in round five.
On September 28 at the Manchester Arena in Lancashire, Haye will face undefeated contender Tyson Fury. The winner will likely get a shot at one of the Klitschko brothers.
Fury, 24, mixes bombast and arrogance. He referred to Haye as "nothing but a little girl" during a press conference last month. Does the Fury mouth inspire motivation?
“Any time you have a fight, you should be motivated,” said Haye. “If the possibility of getting knocked out in front of millions of people – humiliated and embarrassed – can't get you up for fights, then you really need to find another sport.
“I'm motivated by bigger things than Tyson Fury, I can assure you. But yes, his personality and talk certainly gets the juices flowing," he said. "It is something else that makes you push that little bit harder in the gym when the going gets tough."
So basically a fighter has to ignore the words of his opponent and concentrate on his work?
“I think you have to,” Haye said.” I'm never offended or hurt by anything Tyson says, because, to me, it's really quite comical. He actually makes me laugh. Yes, some of his talk is a little bizarre, and a lot of the time he doesn't even make sense, but that just adds to his charm and his appeal.
“You need characters like Tyson Fury in boxing. Casual fans will YouTube him to either see him punch himself in the face, sing after a fight, or come out with some whacky line at a press conference. He's comedy gold,” Haye added.
Fury caused giggles recently when he called himself " the greatest fighter ever. "
How good is Fury? What does he do well?
“He's decent," said Haye. "What he lacks in coordination and skill-set, he makes up for in heart, determination and size,” Haye said. “He's a big lump who attempts to make his opponents feel his size. Put it this way. Steve Cunningham is ten times the boxer Fury is, in terms of ability and skill, yet at six-foot-three and two hundred pounds, he didn't have the weight or strength to keep Tyson off of him. He also didn't have the power to gain his respect and put him in his place.
“Now, I've no doubt Fury will look to do to me what he did to Cunningham, and I welcome that,"Haye said." Because it won't take him long to realize the many differences between Steve Cunningham and me.”
Has Haye spotted some weaknesses in Fury’s style?
“There are many flaws I can exploit,” said Haye matter-of-factly. ”He's one of the less complex puzzles I've had to sort out in my professional career to date. He couldn't really be any more straightforward."
Fury will have a six-inch height advantage on fight night. Will the memory of fighting the towering Valuev four years ago benefit Haye?
“I'm sure it won't hurt,” Haye said. “I know what it is like to be in there with freakishly big opponents and I've more often than not found a way of solving these problems. If I can combine this experience with some top-class sparring against big men, I should be absolutely fine. I've been in with bigger and better than Tyson Fury, that's for sure."
So how does Haye see his fight with Fury playing out?
“Tyson Fury ends up on his back somewhere before the halfway mark,” said Haye.”And, he stays there. I win every single minute of every round leading up to that point by using my skills, speed,and better pedigree. He'll have a look on his face that says he's in too deep.”
David Haye, Renaissance man, is back.
John J. Raspanti responds to all his emails. Please send all questions and comments to John at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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