Muhammad Ali was the inspiration behind David Haye's greatest triumph

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Football News

David Haye has revealed it was the late Muhammad Ali who inspired the finest victory of his career.

A spokesman for Ali's family announced his death aged 74 in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday evening local time. He had been admitted to hospital earlier this week having suffered with Parkinson's disease for 32 years.

Haye returned to the ring in January but it is likely his greatest night will be considered his win over the seven-foot Russian Nikolay Valuev in November 2009.

Victory gave him the WBA heavyweight title Ali once held, and it came shortly after the birth of his son Cassius, whom he named after Ali, who was formerly known as Cassius Clay.

"When I was training to fight Nikolai Valuev, my first heavyweight title fight, I thought to myself, 'How would Muhammad Ali have fought this guy? What would he have done? What would his tactics have been?'," Haye told Press Association Sport.

"And I really sat down and thought about it, watched lots of tapes of Muhammad Ali. And his movement. I really, truly implemented that.

"I insulted Nikolay Valuev before the fight, I really got him riled out so he'd come out throwing bombs, to get him off his game-plan to get him to try to knock me out, to get under his skin. That was definitely out of the Ali play-book.

"(Then to) float around, move around, use lateral movement, use head movement, use foot speed, use hand speed, and counter-punch. And it worked an absolute treat, it really did. I've never moved so much in any fight I've ever had.

"I let him know I drew a lot of inspiration from his style. He's definitely the go-to guy when it comes to strategising a victory over someone who may have physical advantages, size advantages, strength advantages over you.

"That was for the WBA title, which Muhammad Ali once held. It was a dream come true to me, because that's all I ever wanted as a youngster."

Haye never met Ali but insists the time he spoke to him over the phone three years ago remains among his fondest memories, and that his eight-year-old son has already been made aware of whom it is he has been named after.

"The closest I got to meeting him was on FaceTime, three years back," said Haye, 35.

"The phone was put over to Ali, and I told him what he meant to me. I named my first son Cassius after him. He knew who I was, he'd watched my fights. It was really nice to know he knew he I was, and I held the same title.

"He wasn't talking very much at that stage. Obviously his illness was pretty heavy. But I know he completely understood everything. Parkinson's disease is a physical thing; his brain was still as sharp as a tack.

"It's amazing. I always dreamt of one day meeting but unfortunately that didn't happen. (But) I was happy with that.

"Growing up when both your parents are huge fans, his fights repeated on video, it definitely has a big impact on a young person's life.

"I wanted to have the heavyweight title like Muhammad Ali. I understood what the heavyweight title meant.

"A kid from the south in America, at a time when opportunities weren't that big, he carved a legacy for himself through sheer talent, determination, hard work, and positivity, and he's a massive inspiration.

"My name's Haye. His 'slave name' was Clay, and his parents named him Cassius. I thought it'd be a big honour to remember 'The Greatest' with my son.

"He understands it's a big name he's got, he understands who Muhammad Ali was and knows his story. He's young but he understands it.

"Muhammad Ali will have an inspirational effect on him as well. As he gets older, he''ll appreciate what he has stood for, and what he achieved in life."

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