The Evening Standard

David Haye does not do PC. But that is not the only way he sets himself apart from many of his boxing contemporaries.

He has his own promotion company and for six weeks before a fight there are other things he does not do: no sex and no use of his own name when checking into hotels.

This is only a sample of what makes him distinctive and why his belief that by 2011 he will be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world should not be dismissed out of hand.

The first step in that ambition will come in Nuremberg on 7 November when he takes on the Russian WBA champion, 36-year-old giant Nikolai Valuev.

It is while talking of Valuev that Haye spells out his non-PC stance.

We are sitting in a little basement room of his Vauxhall hotel where he has been living under an assumed name – to cut out crank calls that, he fears, could disturb his very strict pre-fight sleeping routines.

His manager, Adam Booth, has just given him a banana and Haye is explaining to me why he called Valuev “the biggest and ugliest human being he has ever met”. I expect him to say he did not actually mean this, that it was just banter to promote the fight.

“No,” says Haye. “When I met Valuev face to face that is how he struck me. Most boxers may feel how I felt but they are too PC to say it. I speak my mind.”

But is he really speaking his mind when he says he will beat Valuev?

Haye, 29, who was the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world, is moving up to heavyweight. Valuev will be eight stones heavier and 11 inches taller.

Surely, I ask, you’ve got more chance of butting him in the nether regions than making contact with his chin?

He laughs and says: “A lot of people see it that way and I have got to punch up which I have never done before. In boxing there is an old saying ‘a good big ‘un always beats a good little ‘un. But in this case it is a great little ‘un against a good big ‘un.”

And then, turning the banana over in his hand, Haye sketches out his victory plan.

“I will win with speed, my punches are a lot faster than him. I have far superior skills in terms of technique and boxing ability. He is very heavy handed.

“Nikolai came to boxing late, he became a boxer just because he was big. I have done it because that’s what I have wanted to do since I was a toddler. David will slay Goliath. The beauty will beat the beast.”

Valuev may not be George Clooney to look at but he could claim to be the beauty – he writes poetry, likes Mozart and Chopin, has written a memoir, acted in a film – and he has not been knocked out in 51 bouts.

“Yes,” concedes Haye. “He must have a good chin. Lots of things are stacked against me but I believe I am destined to be the heavyweight champion.”

Destiny has played a part in the fight coming about. In May Haye was in Cyprus preparing to fight IBF and WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko when the Briton suffered an injury. Then Setanta, who were supposed to show the fight, collapsed. Not long after that Valuev’s people and Sky stepped in and the 7 November fight was the result.

Ever since, he has been dreaming of the moment when the fight with Valuev ends. Haye said: “I come through a tough, hard fight and the giant is laid out on the floor at my feet.”

This was also his dream back in November 2007 before beating Jean-Marc Mormeck for the world cruiserweight title. He journeyed to France for the fight with grim warnings ringing in his ears. “People were saying: no more than 20 tickets for British fans; a Don King promotion; it will go to points; the referee will not help you; the judges will not be on your side and it will be a nightmare…”

And sure enough in the fourth round Haye was knocked down. “I did not see what hit me. All I remember was being on the floor. I asked Adam, ‘How did he knock me down?’ He said ‘Left hook.’ Okay, I kept my right hand a little tighter” and with that he moves his hand nearer his right cheek. “Next round I broke him down slowly then in the seventh knocked him down. I was destined to be the world champion!”

Haye does not predict which round Valuev will fall but claims he has no Plan B. His determination to succeed comes from his father who in his youth was a very physical man and trained in the martial arts. His mother, in contrast, gets very nervous and her only pre-fight advice is, “You are going to be on TV so you have got to look smart.”

So the day before the fight Haye will shave off the beard he has been growing. He owes his love of boxing to his parents. Born in Bermondsey to a Jamaican father and an English mother, he was hooked when his parents held parties during big fights.

He has vivid memories of “the excitement, the shouting, the party atmosphere and the joy”.

His most enduring boxing memory is of the “Fab Four: Roberto Duran, Marvin Haggler, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearn”. But it was Muhammad Ali who was his true mentor. “He fought guys bigger than him, guys who punched a lot harder than him. He seemed to find a way to win. He was a great mover, a lateral mover. Watching him as I grew up made me realise boxing was not all about brute strength.”

Haye thinks his son could become another Ali, although whether Ali will thank him for naming him Cassius, the slave name Ali discarded, is debatable.Like Ali, Haye has had a reputation for being a ladies man but says, “I have had to curb that now that I am married”.However, he still personally picks the ‘ring card’ girls. “I audition them by making them walk around the ring.” His criterion for selection is simple. “They have got to be hot,” by which he means, “stunning, busty, bubbly, lots of personality. Some girls are shy and embarrassed, which is no good in front of 20,000 screaming people.”

And when it comes to sex during training he also has very strong views. “My cut-off is six weeks. When you ejaculate you lose part of your soul, pass it out with the good nutrients, what the Chinese call chi, the life force, the energy that is held in men. And the man is more vulnerable after he has had sex, most people want to roll over and sleep.”

As he says this he flops his head over to one side. “It is the opposite of the feeling you need when you fight. You need to be 100 per cent focused.”

No one can ever accuse Haye of not being focused, particularly about the business of boxing. It is not unusual for boxers to have their own promotion companies but they form them as they near retirement. Haye formed his company, Hayemaker, when he was on the way up. He had listened to his fellow boxers and was determined to avoid their mistakes.

“I have heard too many horror stories. I talk to fighters: how much did you get for this, how come you fought him and not him? Nine times of 10 they say, ‘My manager said you have to fight him.’ I say, ‘Don’t you employ your manager? Why is he telling you what to do? You tell him what you want him to do.’ Managers can also be promoters and that creates a conflict of interest. I like to have 100 per cent control and know where every penny is going. Even when I work with promoters I have 100 per cent control.”

Should Haye beat Valuev then he will make sure Hayemaker will handle the fights that take him to the unification bout. In boxing’s complicated world, and with the mandatory challenges champions are required to make, it could be sometime next year before he gets a fight with one of the Klitschko brothers, Vitaly, who holds the WBC title or Wladmir. And 2011 before a unification fight with the other.

And should he win that unification bout then Haye feels he will have remedied a major boxing problem.

He added: “There is no great exciting heavyweight name. Everyone knew Mike Tyson. Americans used to run heavyweight boxing. But now talented Americans play American football or basketball and we have eastern Europeans like Vitaly Klitschko and Nikolai Valuev with names you struggle to pronounce. When I become heavyweight champion everyone will be able to pronounce David Haye.”

And it is as he visualises himself as the world’s unified heavyweight champion that he launches his most outrageous claim. We were talking the day after Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, featured on Question Time. Haye had watched the programme. “Anybody with half brain can realise Nick Griffin hasn’t got a clue what he is talking about. But I am sure when I become the world heavyweight champion he will hail me as a British hero.”


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