Boxing

David Haye exclusive: Beating Nikolay Valuev was the highlight of my career

GiveMeSport's Emdad Rahman meets David Haye (© GiveMeSport)
GiveMeSport's Emdad Rahman meets David Haye (© GiveMeSport).

David Haye is a man on a mission. Cool, calm and looking in tip-top shape - one of Britain’s greatest living boxers is already gearing up for a return to the ring.

I met with Haye in London and he detailed his short and sweet plans: “Get into the ring and win the heavyweight championship back. It’s as simple as that.

“I had a big shoulder injury which I’ve been fortunate and lucky to have healed from and I hope to be back fighting in the ring by the end of the year and then win back the heavyweight championship of the world. It’s a pretty easy plan if you think about it.

Influences

I quizzed Haye about his greatest boxing influences: “My all-time favourite boxer unsurprisingly is Muhammad Ali. Cassius Clay, he for me, the young Olympic champion, stood up for something he strongly believed in. As an American citizen and a devout Muslim he was a bridge between people.

“His refusal to fight in Vietnam, led to him losing his name, his livelihood, losing all respect and he became the villain. He didn’t go to the war and muck in and this shows to me that he was a man of morals and principles. I think it was a big stand to make.

“It’s only now that people realise that Vietnam was a terrible war but at the time he did the right thing. You know he was alienated; he was terrible as far as the US American President was concerned. Looking back he took a stand, he did the right thing.

“Muhammad Ali believed in something and a lot of people wouldn’t have done that. They would have gone to the war and killed a lot of innocent people because they had simply been told to do so by someone in authority. And he showed what type of a human being he was, he said ‘no! Take my titles, take my belts but I won’t fight.’ For me Muhammad Ali was not only great in the ring but great out of it too.”

Highlights

Haye’s greatest career highlight is an easy one: “It was when I challenged and won the WBA Heavyweight Championship of the world against the 7’2” Nikolay Valuev, the Russian Giant, the Beast from the East. And going out there onto his home turf and bringing the title back to Britain was truly massive.

“It was a David and Goliath match and I out worked, out-manoeuvred and almost knocked out the big man. Beating Nikolay Valuev was definitely the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition. It was something I promised my parents - that I would be heavyweight champion and it wasn’t just against any champion. I’m not a big guy and I’m proud I came up against and defeated the biggest and heaviest one in the history of boxing.

“I’m not a big heavyweight. So I was giving away over a foot in height and 50 kilos. I gave a lot away. I believe that working hard and living clean helped me achieve this.”

Valuev was a two time WBA World Heavyweight Champion and had defeated John Ruiz and the legendary Evander Holyfield. The defeat by David Haye led to the retirement of the biggest boxer to ever step into a boxing ring.

Greats

Haye reels off an array of boxing greats who have shaped his positive outlook in life: “Prince Naseem Hamed was a great inspiration ever since I was a teenager, through putting on great shows, great entrances, great performances and great knock-outs. He was a good role model for me as a young man and an upcoming boxer. Then there’s Nigel Benn a little before Hamed, who was probably my first hero.

"Lennox Lewis is obviously up there along with Frank Bruno. Growing up I witnessed his earlier failed attempts against the likes of Mike Tyson and Tim Witherspoon and how he came back. He’s a great guy and he has had to fight a lot of negativity throughout his life. Frank Is not a bad person but has been unlucky with publicity.

“I interviewed him when I was ten years old, I was really nervous and I remember him being a very nice man. It’s a shame he has had bad press in the past because of issues but Frank Bruno is a real joy to be with. He came from nothing, became a champion, a millionaire and fulfilled his dream.

“I personally don’t want to read the negative stuff that happens within boxers lives, mainly because of entrapment. An athlete hypothetically wins the World Championship ten times, but straight after he retires a sting gets him a front page slot, something which eluded him throughout his whole career.

Icons

“I want to hear about how they are good role models and about their philanthropy and good works. It’s a bit like Ricky Hatton and Chris Eubank, they’re trying to live their lives. They have achieved their dreams and I enjoy watching their fights, which I have recorded. It’s a shame that society focuses on their negatives once they retire instead of the good that they still contribute and the good that they give to our community in general."

David Haye is passionate about his community, young, upcoming boxers, as well as aspiring and talented people: “I came from humble beginnings. Me, my brother, my sister, we lived on the 18th floor of a two bedroom council flat. But that wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t a problem. I loved living there. It was great. I had fantastic parents who looked after me. I was very fortunate that they were very supportive and throughout my career I didn’t see my earlier days in an inner city area as a negative thing.

“I lived there in that block until I was 8-years-old. The main thing is I’m not a better person now living in a nice house. My dreams were not affected in that environment. Don’t worry about your surroundings. You might live in ten bedrooms but your aspirations, your heart, your talent, your hard work is what will help you achieve your dreams, so if there’s anybody out there reading this, you need to just go for it.

“Boxing is not an expensive sport. You go to your local amateur boxing club and you pay your pound. Sometimes it’s even free. We all come from the same place. It’s no use saying you can’t do it – I was the only one in my school who was interested in boxing. I wanted to do it. Everyone else played football and smoked and drank alcohol at weekends. That’s not going to help you get to your final destination.

Achieve your goals

“If you’re a youngster then set a target - What do I want to do and how am I going to do it? Is drinking going to help you achieve your dreams? I don’t think so. Is smoking cigarettes and banned drugs or substance misuse going to help you excel? Hell, no! Why bother doing it? And when you start doing it your chances of becoming great go down and down and when you suck stuff up your nose your chances go even lower and lower and you have less and less of a chance of making it.

“Figure out everything in your life and cut out what’s non beneficial. Going to the gym and eating healthy will raise your game, confidence, enthusiasm. Going to bed early that’s going to raise your chances. You have to work out what’s beneficial and what isn’t. You need to cut that out straight away.

“You need to focus on what will benefit you and get you up to that next level. You have to look at your friends. Is he dragging you to the pub and night club because he likes to go there and all his ambition is to get drunk at the weekend? Is his ambition going to hold you back? Is he being your friend going to help you reach your final destination? If the answer is no, cut him off. It might sound harsh as he’s been your childhood friend but if he’s not assisting and helping you then he’s not a friend.

Friends

"A lot of people drag people down with them. They don’t want their friend to rise and shine, they’re bottom feeders. They don’t want you to flourish but stay at that bottom level with them. A true friend may go for a drink but without you, they will cycle along with you when you’re out running. They don’t have the physical attributes but I will do whatever it takes to help you become the ultimate success. So find a team of friends who will help you get to your destination.”

Haye was able to give readers an insight into his pre-tournament build up: “It’s pretty simple, I train twice a day, six days a week. I don’t work on a strict regime, I work on a strict time frame. If I wake up in the morning and don’t feel great I might leave it two hours. If I wake up early I might bring the session forward one or two hours.

“I have a team around me, who move and adjust all the time, but basically its two times a day, six days a week. The intensity starts off pretty easy and as time goes on and you get stronger, it creeps up. But you don’t want to tire yourself out for the next day so it’s about gradually increasing the levels.”

Training

“Two weeks before a match you are training flat out. Five days before a match I have my hardest training session where I push it to exhaustion. With a fight on Saturday, on Monday I work it to exhaustion. Tuesday I have off. Wednesday I do a little something, Thursday I do a little something and the Friday before the match I do very little, light work and stretching, so come Saturday all my energy stores are charged up and I’m at an optimum.

“For rest I constantly drink water, I watch movies, stay active by playing table tennis, and do fun stuff without tiring myself.

Recently Haye, a Chihuahua owner, has presented the world’s first weather forecast for dogs.

Dog lover

The unique national ‘Weather Pawcast’ has been launched by MORE TH>N Pet Insurance to raise awareness of the climate-related dangers dogs face during these hotter, humid and more stormy summer months.

Using a bespoke temperature risk scale developed by a veterinary expert, Haye pinpoints the regions of the UK where hotter temperatures and higher humidity levels could put some of the nation’s nine million dogs at greatest risk of dehydration and heat stroke, as well as the areas where thunderstorms are likely to occur, potentially causing undue stress in canines.

He said: "Im a dog owner. I have three dogs myself and it was bought to my attention that up to 1-5 owners take their dogs to their vets for dehydration. Dogs have died in cars many times because of irresponsible owners. There was an opportunity to do the first dog weather forecast. It was fun, and as a loving dog owner it was a chance to get the message across. Dogs are mans best friends. They are like little people."

Ownership

We discussed instances when dogs turn violent: "I don’t believe it’s the brand of dog, it’s how the owner treats the dog. It doesn’t matter what brand of dog, Pitbull, Rottweiler, Bandog, I believe you should treat a dog properly and take care of it and not just take it to the park to practise their lock jaws on trees.

"You have to breed their fighting side out. They are not equal to humans. We shouldn't blame all dogs. Just like humans, they are not the same.

"In particular if a dog bites a human being or mauls someone then there’s something not quite right and I would support action against it. However, it’s the owners who have to be penalised as they are shaping the mood of the dog. If it has bitten a human being it could easily kill a human being so ownership is most important as it has crossed the line. It’s mans best friend but the owners must take responsibility."

Topics:
Boxing
David Haye

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