The former heavyweight champion on managing old adversary Dereck Chisora, boxing’s future post-coronavirus and his son’s sporting talents
David Haye’s lockdown workouts with son Cassius have gone viral during the stay-at-home period as much as for the 12-year-old’s mini-Hercules physique as the popularity of his former heavyweight world champion father. Haye, now 39, and two years retired from the ring, would prefer tennis prodigy Cassius claim a Wimbledon Grand Slam title than accomplish honours in boxing.
“He loves his tennis. He plays four hours every day. He’s super fit and he’s 12 years old now. For him he bangs out 40 press-ups. He wants to do that. I remember being exactly like that – wanting to prove I could do as many press-ups as my dad. He’s doing it already” Haye told Telegraph Sport on Wednesday.
“I’d rather him win Wimbledon. I’d much prefer him to do that. I know how hard it is to be a professional boxer. It’s a sport and work, just like tennis, but the gruel… I’m not sure. He hasn’t come where I’ve come from. He’s grown up in a mansion. Where I grew up it was ‘succeed or go back to being insignificant’. I couldn’t allow that. Physically he’s got the tools. If he wanted to do it, I believe he could do it.
“you’ve got guys like Chris Eubank Jr who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth but is now a world class champion of the world. He’s a genuine world champion. He has the desire. It’s the physical trauma to his head that as a father I wouldn’t like to see. If he wanted to do it, I’d back him 100 per cent. But he hasn’t shown any desire to want to fight anybody, fortunately for me. If he does, great, but I’m happy he’s chosen tennis.”
Haye added: “He plays for Great Britain now and was flying around the world for different tournaments. It took me until I was 16 until I could represent England. When I was 17 I had my first international call-up as a senior. By the fact he’s already selected at his age group at 12 shows he’s moving in the right direction.”
Had it not been for the conoravirus pandemic, and boxing’s two-month suspension, Haye would have been overseeing another protege, Dereck Chisora in a high-profile contest at the O2 Arena in London on Friday night against Oleksandr Usyk. The Ukranian moved up to challenge the best heavyweights in the world after unifying the cruiserweight division, as indeed Haye once did himself.
Haye, of course, infamously brawled with Chisora on a dark night in Munich in 2012 at a post-fight press conference after Chisora had gone 12 rounds against Vitali Klitschko for the WBC world title. They fought in a ring five months later in east London with Haye winning by fifth round knockout. But eight years on, Haye now manages Chisora, and is doing a fine job with a fighter who now has popular appeal after once being tagged ‘the bad boy of British boxing’.
“It’s very strange. Derek was in a very good place and he still is. He knows if he wins this fight against the WBO mandatory, undisputed, undefeated, pound-for-pound top five fighter Usyk, he’s got an opportunity against the big men. I believe he can pull off the victory. I believe he’s got the tools, the mindset, the physicality and the momentum," Haye explained.
The brawl and enmity with his rival, which led to a suspension from the British Boxing Board for the Finchley fighter Chisora, is now long gone.
Haye reflected: “It feels like it’s a whole life ago. The way I feel about Derek now is very different to the way I felt about him then. Back then we didn’t have a relationship. I didn’t know him personally at all. He was just a guy I’d seen doing things on television doing random, mad shit. I commentated on one of his fights in Germany in Munich, which he actually performed really well in. I gave him credit at the time.
“But then afterwards we ended up having a brawl in front of 200 of the world’s media which was front-page news. They said we should be banned, we were a disgrace to boxing, but times change, as have we.”
“He’s now a lovable rogue and we’re buddies. We’ve got this united goal of getting him to the promised land. I’ve done it in two weight divisions. I think I know what’s needed, mentally, physically and team-wise. I’ve structured his life to be able to fulfil his potential and I don’t think he’s done that yet. If he gets it right physically, strategically and team-wise, if the moon and stars align for him, he can beat anyone on his day.”
Haye feels boxing with a large crowd will not happen for some time, with Chisora-Usyk scratched for now.
“It would be optimistic that you’re going to get 20,000 people sitting next to each other this year. I’m just going by how it looks out there. It looks like it’ll take a while. Boxing is gone for the moment.”
But Haye commended Eddie Hearn for his plan to put on four events in July and August at Matchroom Boxing’s 15-acre site in Essex.
“I’m so happy to hear Eddie Hearn has found a way” Haye said. “If anyone is going to do it, Eddie and Frank Warren can find some way to keep these young fighters ticking over. It’s good to see light at the end of the tunnel even if it is in someone’s back garden.”
“I boxed in a back garden – I think it was my third or fourth fight. I boxed in the Playboy Mansion. It’s a back garden nonetheless. It was a great time and the afterparty was one of the best. I won my fight in 45 seconds. I think it’s a great thing. It’s innovative and where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
On Friday, Haye joins Nick Grimshaw, Paloma Faith and Katherine Ryan for an online dinner, with the organisers hoping that one million people will join them from their dinner tables.
“Gousto did a survey and 50 per cent of people find the meal time more of an occasion since the lockdown started. People are taking their meal times so much more seriously. I’m doing a mushroom risotto, but I’m a terrible cook. Hopefully my cooking skills measure up.”
Rather than a Friday fight night, it’s a Friday night feast.