David Haye: Remembering when Hayemaker beat a 7ft GIANT in Nikolai Valuev

When David Haye beat a 7 ft GIANT in Nikolai Valuev

For a brief moment in time, David Haye was the best boxer in the world. 

Boxing was at a standstill when the 'Hayemaker' seemingly did the impossible and wrestled the WBA heavyweight title from the grasp of Nikolai Valuev on a cold and dreary night at the Nuremberg Arena in Germany. 

In more ways than one, to the naked eye, they appeared to be polar opposites; Haye, the cocky, arrogant Brit; Valuev, the hulking, menacing Russian straight out of a James Bond movie. 

But dig a little deeper and the differences start to fade as the similarities become more and more obvious with each passing year. 

Both fighters only had one loss on their records at the time, while Haye would go on to beat John Ruiz, the man Valuev had defeated one year prior to regain the belt in December 2005.

Most importantly however, they found themselves bound by a blood oath shared only by a few sworn to secrecy dating back to the early twentieth century, united by a single common goal - to become 'the heavyweight champion of the world', by any means necessary.

Haye, who was 29 at the time, was well aware of the dangers he faced in the build-up to the fight billed simply as 'David vs. Goliath'. No other words would have done it justice.  

“My memories of the night are still vivid,” he told The Independent in 2019. “Memories of walking to the ring knowing that this is it, I’ve never been in this situation where this is the one thing where you’ve convinced yourself, your family, everyone you know, that this is what it’s all for.

"I’m going to be heavyweight champion of the world. The doubts creep into the back of your mind. Am I mad? Am I crazy? Is this real? Have I just made all this up in my mind? You have all these doubts but you’ve got to know that it’s not just about what he can do.

"When you walk to that ring you need to have an air of confidence that isn’t false – I’ve done the work, I’ve paid the price, I’ve sacrificed, and I’ve done everything that’s humanly possible to give my body the best chance to win.

"I really trained hard for that fight, I was in supreme condition, I was 29, in my prime, I was so fresh for whatever he brought to the table.”

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Despite some early adversity, Haye won by majority decision, winning the fight on two of the judges' scorecards, with the other judge scoring it even.  

In doing so, he became the second man since Evander Holyfield to unify the cruiserweight world titles and become the heavyweight champion of the world, which was no mean feat.

“I broke my hand in round two,” he added. “A big overhand right. This guy had a rock solid jaw and I broke my knuckle on his jaw.

"In boxing that doesn’t normally happen – normally somebody’s jaw breaks before your hand does when you hit it.”

“In the last round I nearly knocked him down to really solidify my points victory, but to get a victory on foreign soil against a guy that was promoted by Don King, who had a German promotion team, in Germany... any kind of decision that was remotely close would have gone in his favour so I really had to go above and beyond with my tactics, making sure that he didn’t land any significant blows.”

When David slayed Goliath to become heavyweight champion of the world | Sky Sports

To this day, it is arguably one of the greatest performances by a British athlete overseas.

Haye also spoke about his burning desire to fulfil his lifelong ambition - and revealed he was heavily inspired by Sylvester Stallone.    

“When I saw Sylvestre Stallone as Rocky Balboa go to Russia in Rocky IV, that moment really resonated with me, and for some weird reason I knew from then I’m going to become heavyweight champion of the world and I’m going to beat a big Russian to do it," he explained.

"I believed that was going to be my destiny. Even when I first turned pro, I was a cruiserweight, 13st, while Lennox Lewis was a heavyweight champion weighing 18st, I believed it.

"Even when I lost my first fight I somehow knew that was only to toughen me up mentally or physically, or teach me a lesson to then become heavyweight champion of the world.

"It felt like everything I’d been saying, everything I’d hoped since I was a little kid, all came together on one night.”

Read more: David Haye vs Joe Fournier: Hayemaker eyes a future fight with Lennox Lewis

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