Verhoeven also found a kindred spirit in Tyson’s cousin Hughie Fury and the two have remained firm friends ever since.
And he is defending his heavyweight title – which he won back in 2014 – in the Netherlands in Arnhem on October 23 with the help of his long-time co-trainer Peter Fury – who masterminded Fury’s famous upset in Dusseldorf.
In an exclusive interview with GIVEMESPORT, the champion kickboxer revealed: “I’ve trained with Tyson – with the whole Fury family actually – for years. I still do to this day.
“It was amazing. It was a huge fight. It will go down in history as one of the greatest trilogies that there has ever been and ever will be.
“I’m so proud of Tyson. I’m really proud of the way that he kept going, got back up, and knocked him out. I just hope that he keeps winning and stays focused.
“I try to look at fighting like he does, we really study the game, and just try to be the best at what we’re doing.”
As Verhoeven enters the next – and defining – chapter of his career, he is motivated by one thing above all else: his legacy.
On Saturday the Dutch heavyweight will defend his title against Jamal Ben Saddik at Glory: Collision 3 in the Netherlands in Amsterdam on October 23, his third fight of 2021.
Sound familiar? That’s because Verhoeven has been here before; he lost to Saddik in 2011 and beat him as recently as 2017.
One mention of Saddik’s name and Verhoeven’s first words were: “We’re not the best of friends.”
“He talks a lot of s—,” he explained.
“Things happened in the past like he spat in my face during the stare down before our second fight, I’ve said some things about his doping in the past, I said he’d better watch out because we’ve got doping testing now, and he didn’t like that I was saying that.
“There was a lot of disrespect in the ring as well, he tried to headbutt me, things like that. And then after I knocked him out in the fifth round, I went over to him to try and squash everything, and he didn’t even look at me.
“Do we like each other? No. He’s just a different type of guy, a different type of energy, but I don’t think you have to like everybody. Saturday is just going to be business as usual.”
Verhoeven (58-10,18 TKOs) was originally supposed to fight Alistair Overeem but Overeem had to withdraw from the bout and has been replaced by Saddik.
The 32-year-old could have taken the easy option, but he admits the thought never crossed his mind.
Asked whether he deserves more credit for accepting the fight on short notice, he replied cheerfully: “100 per cent. But I don’t really look at it like that. I just do what I love to do.
“I just love to fight, I want to defend my title as many times as possible, versus whoever. In this case, of course we had Alistair Overeem lined up, but he had to drop out due to a back injury.
“Yeah, it happens, but earlier this year, I was also supposed to fight Jamal, and he also dropped out due to a back injury. So yeah, we just stay flexible man, and enjoy what we’re doing.
“I hope to give the people what they want, I want to put on a show for the fans, it’s been a while. A third-round knockout, that would be really nice, I hope it will be worth their money.”
Unlike Saddik, Verhoeven has a lot of respect for Overeem and admires the way his fellow countryman carries himself both in and out of the ring, a true gentleman.
If Verhoeven defeats Belgian-Moroccan Saddik (36-8, 1 NC), 31, in front of a crowd at the GelreDome in Arnhem, Netherlands, he is aiming for a bigger fight next year against Overeem in a clash across the eras.
“Of course, that would be amazing,” he said.
“He is a huge name and a legend in the sport, he did amazing things, I think he’s also a class act.
“He came back to kickboxing and hopes to finish his career here so yeah let’s see if we can help with that.”