DAVID HAYE can now look back on his career and pinpoint his prime. Not so long ago, as he waded through two torturous losses to Tony Bellew, he was trying to convince himself and the rest of us that the best days were still to come. But now, two years after his second defeat to Bellew, he knows the truth.
“The penny drops with the fighter last,” Haye told Boxing News. “But if you’d talked to me on the day of the [second Bellew] fight I’d have told you I was going to win the fight… There were too many miles on the clock, I couldn’t see the shots coming.
“I didn’t think it would happen to me. I’d seen Roy Jones losing to people who wouldn’t have been his sparring partner in his prime. I saw it happen to Shane Mosley…
“When you’re no longer in your prime, you can look back and identify exactly when you were in your prime,” Haye continued. “And those days at cruiserweight, when I was knocking out Jean Marc Mormeck and Enzo Maccarinelli, I was at my absolute best.”
Haye, 39, is now happily retired. On Saturday night (May 30), at 7.45pm on BT Sport, he kicks off a new boxing series, What Went Down, where fighters reflect on their biggest fights alongside key protagonists from those contests. Under the microscope is Haye’s wins over Mormeck, Maccarinelli and the heavyweight grudge match with Dereck Chisora.
Haye told BN that without the loss to Carl Thompson in his 11th fight, those three contests may not have happened.
“For me, I had the setback in my 11th fight against Carl Thompson but that was the catalyst to put me on the course for world championships. Fighters like Joe Calzaghe or Floyd Mayweather Jnr remained unbeaten but I wasn’t that guy.
“I lost early and I got the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. With hindsight, I can now say that loss was among my most important fights because of what it made me realise and what I went on to do because of it.”
Haye enjoyed looking back on the glory days when making the BT show, which is presented by Steve Bunce and features contributions from Adam Booth, John Rawling, Don Charles and Dereck Chisora.
“I’ve got videos of lots my sparring sessions which I recorded and it’s nice to watch those and then the fights that followed them,” Haye said. “It’s nice to watch me in my prime. To watch me on my ringwalk, to watch me in the corner. Even to watch me getting hurt and knocked down and then how I dealt with that. It does feel like a different person when I watch it. It’s me, but it’s me at a very different time, particularly with everything that’s going on in the world now.”
Much of Haye’s reputation was built around his fearsome punching power yet closer inspection of his peak showcases an exceptionally intelligent boxer. One who knew his opponents’ weaknesses as well as he knew his own.
“I wasn’t invincible,” Haye said. “There is no such thing as an invincible boxer. As a boxer at the top level you try and make yourself as invincible as you can be but that notion of invincibility – whatever might be said at press conferences – is a falsehood.
“Every single fighter I fought had the capabilities to beat me if they’d have got it right themselves. But when I trained, like I did for the Mormeck fight, I trained for every eventuality. I trained for getting caught, for getting knocked down, for getting buzzed and being dizzy because I knew that was what might happen in the fight. Now that’s not me accepting that I could be beaten, that’s just being prepared.
“It’s like putting a bulletproof vest on. By doing so, you’re not saying you’re definitely going to get shot, you’re preparing yourself for that should it happen. And in boxing anything can happen, you have to take precautions and tick as many boxes as you can in preparation. Think about it, if you haven’t prepared to be knocked down, then how do you know you can deal with it?”
Read the full in-depth interview with Haye in the June 11 issue of Boxing News.
Go behind the scenes on some of David Haye’s biggest fights in BT Sport’s new boxing show What Went Down, Saturday 30 May, 7:45pm, BT Sport 1