A change of philosophy – and sheer boredom – sees the former champion David Haye return to action at The O2
Billed as the Licence To Thrill, the grudge match between David Haye and Dereck Chisora electrified 40,000 people at West Ham’s Boleyn Ground in July 2012.
A steel fence was put around the two fighters at the press conference announcing the date and the contest was mired in emnity and controversy – the WBC threatened to revoke the licenses of anyone involved in the fight, including promoters, trainers, timekeepers, referees and undercard fighters.
Chisora had seen his own licence revoked but found a loophole to ensure he was in the ring.
Haye entered to Ain’t No Stopping Us Now where Chisora was waiting for the man he had called “an embarrassment”. The fight was cautious, both men standing off. Then Chisora caught Haye after the bell at the end of the third which seemed to jar the favourite into action.
Towards the end of the fifth round, Haye knocked Chisora to the floor. At the eighth count, Chisora stood, only to walk in to more blows. He was knocked down for a second time by a left hand from Haye, and referee Luis Pabon stepped in gave the fight to Haye on a TKO. while his opponent was on his feet.
Arguably, that was the Bermondsey’s boxer’s Haye Day. Or at least one of his last hurrahs. After that bout a series of injuries Haye saw withdrawn from fights and his career slip towards an anti-climax. He had reconstructive surgery on a shoulder injury and was advised to retire.
Since then, he says, he has seen the light and changed his philosophy. He says, at 35, he’s ready to claim a world title belt, driven by this revelation.
Challenge from within
He faces Australian Mark di Mori at The O2 on Saturday (January 16) and it will be a stiff test. Di Mori has lost only one of 33 bouts but the greater challenge may be within Haye himself – whether he genuinely has the hunger after two years away, whether he still has the strength and whether his new thinking is good thinking.
That new philosophy is centred on the idea that he had always sacrificed solidity for speed. Being too light and nimble made him susceptible to injury.
The former WBA heavyweight champion changed trainers from Adam Booth to Shane McGuigan, son of Barry, and he began to set his alarm for two hourly intervals to ensure he ate and bulked up ahead of Saturday’s bout.
Haye said: “In my old training camps, I used to come in around 15 stone – I’d lose a stone just cutting my food down.
“The consensus back then was, the lighter I am, the closer I am to cruiserweight, the faster I will be. That’s all well and good, but when you’re cutting weight down so low, and sparring big guys, I get injured.
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“I’m not as ripped as I was in my last few fights, but it’s not a bodybuilding competition.”
He has spent his days working on that shoulder so he can “punch freely and without pain and not worry the shoulder was going to pop out of its socket.
“Boring, boring, nothing fun,” he said . “All you feel is lactic acid burning every day It’s been 1,282 days, a long time not to be active. It’s the longest time in my life, since I was 10, that I haven’t had a fight and I’ve missed it. Sitting on the sidelines I think that this for me is the start of something that is amazing.”
His shoulder, his hunger, his pulling power and his boxing prowess and the work of a 1,200 days will finally be put to the test on D-Day – Haye Day.
David Haye takes on Mark de Mori at The O2 on January 16. For tickets to #HayeDay go to axs.com or watch the fight live on Dave from 9pm.