David Haye's fight with Tony Bellew is the beginning of the end for the heavyweight
The pair have a vicious feud brewing that will see them come together in the ring, a heavyweight fight that may not showcase the best boxing in the world but has a storyline that will capture many inside and outside the sport.
It is only Haye’s fourth fight since he lost a unanimous decision to Wladimir Klitschko. The 36-year-old concedes that he has not been able to fight as much as he would like in his career due to the sheer physical intensity of his training camp. He was doing as much damage to himself as his opponents would.
“Recovery from these big fights often takes three or four months,” Haye said.
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“My shoulder would be smashed up and my back would be smashed up.”
Now, Haye trains with Shane McGuigan, whose father Barry was featherweight world champion.
And the training camps are not what they were. Gone are the perverse, damaging exercises that were done as much for Haye’s benefit as to inspire fear in the hearts of his opponents.
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He is still training hard – but he isn’t afraid to go out and mix with some LA celebrities in nightclubs or post video messages to Bellew from his balcony in the sun. Haye hasn’t just changed his training – he has trained his approach to life.
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“I think I’ve got more longevity now,” Haye added.
“I want to fight three times a year.”
And if everything goes to plan, it will only be for two years.
Haye thinks he has five fights left in him, but he wants to make them the ones that leave a legacy.
He freely admits that people have forgotten all about his achievements as a cruiserweight, the division from which Bellew will step up in March.
There, Haye united the WBA, WBC and WBO belts in 2008, beating Enzo Maccarinelli at the O2 Arena.
But somehow he felt discriminated against in the heavyweight division. He won and twice defended the WBA heavyweight. He was one of Britain’s most successful boxers.
David Haye lost to Wladimir Klitschko in 2011 – a defeat that ruined his retirement plans
However, the Wladimir Klitschko loss shattered the vision. He took a year out before fighting a grudge match against Dereck Chisora at Upton Park.
But now he wants to retire with two things – a tidy pension and more importantly, a legacy that will last.
He knows that few will remember his fight against Maccarinelli or his two-round knockout of Arnold Gjergjaj last May. But if he beats Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury or even WBC champion Deontay Wilder, he can be great once again.
“I won’t consider losing,” Haye says.
David Haye and Tony Bellew have an ongoing feud that will make their fight a mouthwatering prospect
“I don’t believe there’s anybody on the planet that can beat me.”
The Bellew fight is an important piece of the puzzle. With the bad blood between them, the fight will sell tickets and pay-per-view. It will make booking a fight with Haye a near-guaranteed massive payday. It is a very large carrot to dangle.
But he cannot lost to Bellew. No matter how big the purse, his credibility will disappear if Bellew springs a surprise.
However, beat him, beat him well and provide plenty of entertainment, and Haye’s glorious retirement run can begin.
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But he has plans to mitigate any defeats. On Friday, he launched a partnership between Hayemaker and Ringstar to promote Britain’s hottest fighter.
He did so without a TV deal or any fighters signed up. He talked about putting the fighter first, about having the next unified world champion from Britain, about using former Golden Boy Richard Schaefer to help crack the UK market.
But it felt undercooked. Like an afterthought. Haye knows he has to hedge himself and ensure that he can have a career beyond boxing. But realistically, he only wants to make money one way: getting in the ring, and winning fights.