The staging of the pre-fight press conference in a cinema is probably as box office as this bout will get. Taking his first steps down an uncertain path he hopes will lead to him regaining the world heavyweight crown, David Haye looked in good shape but mildly embarrassed on Wednesday while sitting in front of Screen 5 of Cineworld as he talked up his comeback at the O2 Arena on Saturday night.
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His opponent is Mark de Mori, an Australian so unknown one sportswriting compatriot of the heavyweight, who has lost only one of 37 fights, claimed never to have heard of him on British national radio. Bizarrely, the fight will also be broadcast on the blokey, free-to-air TV channel Dave, the self-styled home of QI which for one night only, it seems, will be turned into the home of KO.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position, a few days away from a fight that’s going to actually happen,” said Haye, referring to three bouts, two of them against the recently crowned world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, from which he was forced to withdraw through injury, since his fifth-round stoppage of Dereck Chisora in front of 40,000 spectators at Upton Park in July 2012. “It’s been 1,282 days, I think it is … a long time not to be active. It’s the longest time in my life, since I was 10, that I haven’t had a fight and I’ve missed it. Sitting on the sidelines I think that this for me is the start of something that is amazing.”
While the beginning of something amazing may well be germinating for Haye, it seems unlikely that this tentative stepping-stone on a road that may lead to a fight against Fury or Anthony Joshua will turn too many heads. Unsurprisingly, considering this match was made after De Mori called him out on Twitter, ticket sales are understood to be sluggish. What is more, despite the Croatia-based Perth native’s impertinence on the social networking site, Haye’s opponent seems to know his place.
“I’m the other guy,” De Mori said. “That’s my role here, I’m the guy who’s supposed to make David Haye look good. All I can say is I’m ready to fight. I’ve turned up, I’ve trained extremely hard, I’ll do whatever it takes to win. I know you all want to hear from David Haye, not me, but maybe after the fight things will change. I’m the other guy, the B-side, but I’m here to win, I’m here to knock David Haye out. I’m ready to fight.”
Haye also claims to be ready to fight, despite a debilitating shoulder injury that forced him out of the ring on medical advice and required reconstructive surgery. Asked how he has occupied his time for the past 1,282 days, his response sounds depressing and grim. “Rehabbing my shoulder,” he replied. “Trying to get in a position where I can punch freely and without pain and not worry the shoulder was going to pop out of its socket. The surgery I had was on the subscapularis and the long head of the biceps which are both crucial for punching. I had to let it heal and build the muscles around it and strengthen the ligaments. It was so boring: elastic bands and cable machines. Boring, boring, nothing fun. All you feel is lactic acid burning every day.”
More recently, Haye has been burning the acid under the watchful eye of Shane McGuigan, son of the former Irish world champion Barry, having parted company with his former trainer Adam Booth. “He’s seven or eight years younger than me but you’d never know that,” Haye said of his mentor, an apple that clearly did not fall too far from the tree. “He’s done it from scratch. He’s taken Carl Frampton right from the start to the top of his division and into unification fights. I’ve been really impressed by what he did and watching Frampton was one of the main reasons I sought Shane out because I liked what he did – the rhythm, the patience, the punch variety.”
Haye will need all three attributes and more in his personal armoury as he sets off on what could be a long road back.
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