“Even though he’s a moron I supported Tyson Fury,” David Haye says as he remembers watching the controversial new world heavyweight champion beat Wladimir Klitschko in a shock result that continues to reverberate.
Fury’s success 10 days ago is still being clouded by the bile that spills from his mouth and 80,000 people have so far signed a petition to have him removed from the shortlist for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.
A few weeks before he fought Klitschko in Düsseldorf, Fury appeared to compare homosexuality to paedophilia. I’ve interviewed Fury often enough to know that he courts controversy as a way of generating headlines – while also realising that, more disturbingly, it seems as if he believes some of his nonsense. Fury likes to link his bigotry to biblical references but since becoming champion, he has concentrated on making derogatory comments about women and threatening the journalist Oliver Holt, with whom he discussed his views on homosexuality and abortion. Peter Fury, Tyson’s uncle and trainer, acknowledged to the BBC on Sunday that the fighter should apologise for his comments about homosexuality – while dismissing the verbal assault on Holt as “a joke”. We’ve still fallen a long way from Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali.
Haye, who has just announced his comeback, was also once a world heavyweight champion mildly infamous for his insulting soundbites. But Haye looks almost bashful when conceding how different he is to Fury – who has sworn never to give the 35-year-old Londoner a title shot.
“I’m sounding like the elder statesman – who would have thought it?” Haye exclaims. “I thought I was the controversial bad guy. But Fury’s got to stop saying that crap. Come on man – just shut up. It’s stupid and wrong and it’s giving boxing another negative headline. Stop it. Just stick to singing after the fight. That’s good. After a 12 round fight he wasn’t out of breath [as Fury launched into an emotive rendition of Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing in honour of his wife Paris]. That was impressive. I like that. But stop going on about gays and paedophiles.”
Fury has claimed that he may suffer from bipolar disorder. Haye shrugs. “I know people who are bipolar and they don’t talk that sort of crap. He’s just got to shut up.”
Haye still cheered on his fellow Briton when he watched the two giants rumble around in a dull title fight. “It was nice to see things didn’t go Klitschko’s way. That’s why I thought: ‘I hope Tyson wins – even if he never gives me a shot.’ As long as the heavyweight titles are out of Germany we could have some interesting fights. Fury might fight Anthony Joshua. He might fight Deontay Wilder [the WBC champion]. It keeps the game fresh and entertaining. As long as the titles stayed in Germany no one cared. So I was genuinely happy for Tyson even though he cussed me out straight afterwards.”
Haye returns to the ring after a three-and-a-half year layoff and on 16 January he will fight Mark de Mori at the O2. The obscure Croatian has not lost a bout for 11 years but Haye laughs when I say I’ve only heard of two of De Mori’s opponents.
“That’s two more than me. But I want to fight someone in the top 10 and De Mori is ranked by the WBA. Just because someone hasn’t fought anyone doesn’t mean that they’re not good. I can’t take this guy lightly. You don’t stay unbeaten for 11 years if you’re terrible and at the press conference he looked confident. He fancies the job but there were more press there than he normally has punters to his fights. So he probably won’t handle it next month.”
Haye denies that Fury’s victory dredged up the pain of his own humiliating loss to Klitschko in July 2011 – when he failed to match his pre-fight bravado. “Seeing Tyson win didn’t hurt at all because I saw the usual shenanigans of a Klitschko fight,” Haye says, highlighting the row between the two camps after Fury’s gloves arrived late and the last-minute removal of one layer of padding beneath the ring in Düsseldorf. “They tried to put seven-inch padding in the ring. They tried to wrap Wladimir’s hands before anyone was there. No one ever brings it up because they’re supposed to be nice guys. They did so much crap to me. I’ll give you one example. I had to walk through six inches of water and the crowd of 50,000 without barriers. ”
Haye does not pretend that he lost to Klitschko for any other reason than he was outboxed comprehensively. “He was great that night. He was razor-sharp. His jab was a piston. But I’m not 6ft 10. It might not have been so piston-like if he was punching up.”
In contrast, against Fury, the 39-year-old Klitschko looked a husk of the fighter he had once been. “I couldn’t believe it,” Haye says. “Klitschko went to the well and it was dry. He had nothing left. I thought Tyson would either get stopped in the first two rounds or lose on points regardless of how the fight went. But after the first round I thought that’s it – Klitschko can’t throw any punches. I suddenly knew why Klitschko would never fight Nikolai Valuev [the 7ft Russian whom Haye beat to become WBA champion in 2009].
“Klitschko doesn’t like losing the reach and weight advantage. He blows a fuse. He needs to have the physical advantage because he’s petrified of being hit. Even when I hit him you could see his shock. He grabs hold of you and you can’t get him off you. Against Fury I’ve never seen a heavyweight champion throw so few punches. It made my fight against him look like Hagler-Hearns. It was hilarious.”
Haye’s contempt for Klitschko is greater than his disdain for Fury. He reaches for his phone and finds a link that shows the Ukrainian head-butting Fury. “Klitschko gave him a flying head-butt and the ref said nothing. He’s supposed to be this great sportsman but that head-butt shows you what Klitschko’s all about. Look. Right in front of the referee. Bam. I still had Tyson winning by eight rounds. You couldn’t give anything to Wlad when he was not throwing a punch. He was not being like Willie Pep and doing anything clever in there. The only people who thought the fight was exciting listened to it on the radio. Apparently it sounded amazing on radio. But when you saw it no one was punching, it was just holding. I don’t want to see that again.”
Of course the rematch is already being discussed and Haye shakes his head. “I don’t understand why Tyson signed for a rematch when it was a mandatory contest – it’s weird. Why would you do that? Fury is going to have to go back to Germany. They keep talking about Wembley but there is no way Klitschko is ever going to fight in England. He fights with all his regulatory people in Germany. Tyson should win it again but they are going to make it as awkward as possible for him.”
Haye is already mapping out a fantasy future of the heavyweight division. “I’d like Fury to beat Klitschko again and then fight Anthony Joshua. I’d meet the winner in another all-British title fight. Then I’d go to America to fight Wilder for all the belts.”
It is striking how sure Haye sounds when asked who might win a fight between Fury and Joshua. “I think Joshua would now. Based on his performance against Klitschko I cannot see how Fury would beat Joshua. He was just clowning around, holding and throwing a few little jabs – with not much quality.”
Joshua might have had only 14 fights as a professional, and hardly lost a round in the process, but the Olympic champion would pose a real threat even to a fighter as experienced as Haye. “For sure,” Haye agrees. “Joshua would be a hard fight for anyone. But we will find out more against Dillian Whyte on Saturday.”
Whyte is also unbeaten as a heavyweight and he defeated Joshua as an amateur. “I watched the roundtable [television] exchange and this guy has plenty of talk. I sparred with Whyte about five years ago when he was just a kid. He’s interesting and Joshua has never been tagged so no one knows if he has punch resistance. But I would get in the ring with any of them and I believe I’d beat them all. I’ve been in the ring with the Bronze Bomber, Deontay Wilder. I’ve tasted his power, and he’s tasted mine.”
Haye pulls a face at the rumour that Wilder knocked him down in sparring. “He didn’t knock me down. But I didn’t knock him down either. It was just competitive sparring. I’d be happy fighting Wilder. I’ve not tasted Fury’s power but he couldn’t knock down Dereck Chisora [whom Haye stopped in his last bout in 2012] in two fights. Anthony Joshua? I’ve not seen him knock out anyone who has come to fight him. But yeah, out of everyone, Joshua is looking really positive, real good. It’s going to be interesting to see what Fury says about Joshua.
“Before Klitschko, Fury said he’d like to fight me because we’d get a lot of pay-per-view buys. But as the new unified champion the first thing he said was: ‘I’m not fighting David Haye because he’s a coward. I’m not fighting Deontay Wilder because he’s a basketball player.’ He’s ruled out the two biggest punchers in the division. I’m waiting to hear what he says about Joshua because I have a feeling he’ll swerve him too. Joshua beat up Fury in sparring. When Joshua was an amateur he battered Fury. I saw an interview where Fury admitted: ‘Yeah this English kid beat me up in sparring’ … Now that kid is 14-0 and he’s knocking on the door. What are you going to do? Fury said he would rather fight his cousin than me. It’s really weird having a new world champion saying: ‘OK, I’m not fighting you or you …’”
Fury’s bitterness towards Haye is rooted in the fact that the older man twice pulled out of fights when injured. The last resulted in complicated surgery and Haye having his right arm extended in a cast for six months. “I got depressed. It was one of the darkest, lowest times especially as people were saying I was just trying to dodge Fury. Boxing fans are a very cynical bunch. But it’s amazing how the human body repairs.”
Haye is now working with Shane McGuigan, the smartest young trainer in British boxing. “Shane’s done a great job with Carl Frampton. He’s not a typical spit-and-sawdust guy. He’s very good with strength and conditioning and he knows anatomy and physiology and how to get the best out of me. He ensures the training is short and sharp and suited to me at 35.”
Haye flexes his muscled right arm. “That’s the moneymaker. I am not the Hayemaker without that right hand. It feels stronger than ever.”
It can be assumed that Haye will breeze past De Mori and put himself close to centre-stage again in a suddenly intriguing heavyweight division. “Who would’ve thought Fury would become champion?” Haye exclaims. “Crazy. It makes it spicy again and heavyweight boxing is back on everybody’s lips. This comeback feels like perfect timing.”
• David Haye v Mark de Mori is at The O2 on 16 January. For tickets visit axs.com
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