How We Met: David Haye & Ben Anderson


Ben Anderson, 36

An investigative journalist, Anderson (right in picture) has spent the past decade travelling to some of the world's most fearsome hotspots for television documentaries including 'Holidays in the Axis of Evil'. He lives in south-east London.

I grew up in Bedford. It's not quite inner-city ghetto, but it was pretty rough, especially on Saturday nights. I took up boxing as a hobby, and one time I came across this big bully in the ring. I smashed his nose in, and he never bothered anyone again. I thought I was pretty good after that, and my trainer said I was OK. "But let me take you to a real boxing club to show you what it's all about," he said.

He took me to a place in Lambeth, south London, and there was David: 16, skinny, and with this ridiculous ponytail. I was four years older than him, and convinced I could take him. I was wrong.

Even though he knocked me off my feet, we became proper friends. I saw less of him as my career was taking off – I was an undercover journalist for Donal MacIntyre for five years, and that took me around the world – but at David's fourth or fifth fight, I was sitting next to his girlfriend [now wife] ringside, and we were talking about house-hunting. I'd just bought a place in Clapham, and it turned out we were neighbours. Literally: I'd bought the place right next to them. We've hung out a lot more ever since.

Fame has never really changed David, although he is on his BlackBerry a lot more now. But ever since he was 16 he walked around like a champion. As he says, the only thing that has changed since is that the world now realises it.

In truth, he is one of the most selfish people I have ever met, and he makes no bones about it. It's how he has managed to achieve everything he has.

It was a shock to see him brawl with Dereck Chisora after the Vitali Klitschko fight. You forget how comfortable boxers are around violence. He went too far, and I criticised him for it, but it was very much out of character. He shouldn't lower himself to that level; he doesn't need to.

He'll probably get to fight Vitali now, though, and people will forget about the press conference. Will I go? I go to all his fights, even though it's almost always a horrible experience. It's difficult to watch your friend get hit, but I know that he can beat Vitali. He knows it too...

David Haye, 32

One of the UK's most successful boxers, Haye is the former WBA heavyweight champion. He announced his retirement in 2011 after losing to Wladimir Klitschko, but looks set for a comeback. He lives in Kent with his wife and son.

Years back, Ben used to come down to the Fitzroy Lodge Amateur Boxing Club in Lambeth, and we'd spar. He was a tough guy, and he took a beating pretty well.

He never wanted to turn pro; he just enjoyed the sport. A lot of people go to boxing gyms just to train, to lift weights, to punch bags, but Ben always got into the ring and faced anyone. He was never scared. I think that says a lot about him.

I don't have a lot of friends, but my true friends are the ones that have been around for a long time, not those who jumped on board late doors. All my friends are successful in their own right; I don't associate with anyone who isn't doing something positive in their lives, and that's why we bounce off each other so well. If you associate yourself with people who do good things, it rubs off.

Whenever I used to fight, a whole bunch of us would take a private jet out to wherever it was taking place, and eat and hang out together, and I'd have them ringside on the night itself. That's important to any fighter: to have friends and family there to offer support.

What I admire most about Ben is that he does exactly what he wants to do. I wouldn't personally advise anybody to go to Afghanistan or the Congo, but that is what he has chosen to do, and he is one of the very best at it. I've seen all his documentaries, and a lot of the stuff that never made it on to TV. He has been in some real life-and-death situations: landmines; shot up by the Taliban. I would never voluntarily put myself in that position, and I'd say that nine out of 10 soldiers would rather be somewhere else. But not Ben. He did Holidays in the Axis of Evil; I'm much more Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas...

In an ideal world, that recent brawl [with Dereck Chisora] should never have happened. I've never even seen, let alone been involved in [anything] like that [before]. But I know with Ben [the support] is there, because he knows I'm not a thug, and would never start trouble.

I do want a life outside boxing as well, and Ben and I have already worked together [on a boxing-themed chatshow for Sky 1], and it would definitely be good to work together again. But if he's going somewhere like Afghanistan, he's going alone. I'll stay here.

'No Worse Enemy: The Inside Story of the Chaotic Struggle for Afghanistan' by Ben Anderson is published by Oneworld Publications, priced £16.99

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor