Frank Warren: David Haye has a lot of catching up to do if he truly wants to revive old glories

INSIDE BOXING

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The Independent Online

David Haye has always talked a good fight, though in the past three years he has done more jawing than warring. Plus a fair amount of partying, judging by his fleshier-than-usual features these days.

The last time he unleashed his famed Hayemaker was on the chin of Dereck Chisora in their blockbuster scrap at Upton Park in July 2012. Subsequently he pulled out of two proposed big-money dates with Tyson Fury, first with a cut eyebrow caused in sparring for the fight and then for surgical repair to his shoulder.

It seemed that we had seen – although not heard – the last of the charismatic former cruiserweight and heavyweight world champion. But now the constant murmurings of a possible comeback have grown louder, with Haye recently declaring that 2015 will see the return of the Hayemaker “bigger, better, faster stronger and with a new plan”.

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Haye has not fought since his 2012 victory over Dereck Chisora

Could it be that Haye’s planned excursion into showbiz hasn’t quite taken off as he had hoped? So far Hollywood hasn’t happened for him, so maybe that’s why he is getting itchy fists again.

Haye has never sold himself short on self-belief and there is no doubt the personable Londoner, with his gift of the gab as well as the jab, would bring a welcome infusion of glamour into the heavyweight ranks. But if he really is serious about getting back into the ring he is going to have to work his way up to title contention, and that may not be easy.

He is 34 and, while that is not an unreasonable age for a modern heavyweight, that three-year absence raises the question of whether he can recapture the form and fitness that made him a champion. There’s an awful lot of catching up to do physically and mentally.

OK, so Muhammad Ali did it, returning after three years in the fistic wilderness to eventually reclaim the world heavyweight title but he was five years younger and, I suspect, more motivated than Haye.

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Wladimir Klitschko jabs Haye on his way to voctory in 2011

The other issue for Haye, ignoring the farcically short-changed pay-per-view night in Manchester against Audley Harrison, is that his career has been judged by some on his tepid performance against Wladimir Klitschko, when he surrendered his WBA belt by giving a passable impression of Usain Bolt despite claiming a dodgy big toe.

He split with long-term mentor Adam Booth last year and Haye has hinted about resuming his career in the United States, where he is said to have been in secret discussions with the new Mr Big of boxing over there, Al Haymon, whose flagship fighter is Floyd Mayweather Jnr. If Haye does fight again it will be interesting to see who he will have to train him.

Haye himself knows that there is no way he could walk straight into a world title shot. He would need three or four fights against half-decent opposition before levering himself back into the frame. Does he really have the appetite for that?

His pride wouldn’t allow him to end up as a trial horse for young bloods like Anthony Joshua – not a pairing that should be contemplated anyway, for inactive as he has been, Haye would have far too much nous for Joshua at this stage.

Ultimately, Haye and the new WBC champion Deontay Wilder could be marketable and there’s also the question of that unfinished business with Fury.

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Tyson Fury is a potential contender but Haye has already messed him around twice

Personally, I doubt whether Fury would stand for it after twice being messed around by Haye, which cost him a lot of money. I think he’d tell him to get stuffed.

In any case he has bigger fish to fry as he is mandatory challenger to the winner of the WBO title fight between holder Klitschko and unbeaten American Bryant Jennings at Madison Square Garden on 25 April. If Big Wlad wins, as I expect, then hopefully we can get it on between him and Fury either here or in Germany in September.

Banning boxing would wreck more lives than it would save

Inevitably there have been fresh calls for boxing to be banned after the recent death in Australia of young featherweight Brayd Smith, who collapsed in the dressing room in Toowoomba after a points defeat and later died as a result of a brain clot.

The anti-boxing lobby are always quick to jump on the abolitionist bandwagon whenever there is a ring tragedy. Fortunately, these days, with stricter governance and medical supervision of the sport, they are few and far between.

I don’t recall similar demands for cricket to be banned in Australia when their batsman Phillip Hughes died in December after being hit on the head with a delivery while wearing a helmet.

Of course, I accept that the sports are inherently different and that by its very nature the hazards in boxing are greater. But there are few sporting activities which do not present risk to participants and boxers are always aware of the dangers – as are jockeys, mountaineers and rugby players.

While boxing may take a few lives – far fewer than a host of other contact sports, according to statistics – it surely transforms, and even saves, many more, as the British government recognises by endorsing its return to schools and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Boxing now recommending it for prison programmes.

There are thousands of disadvantaged youngsters who would have been lost to the streets, or to jail, if not for the discipline and respect boxing instils. Calling for its abolition is totally counter-productive. 

Brook’s wound won’t show – but will any mental scars?

The now customary knee-length trunks will mask the wound, but the key question is whether the mental scars from that horrific machete attack in Tenerife six months ago will affect Kell Brook.

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Kell Brook fights for the first time since being stabbed in Tenerife

The new WBA welterweight champion’s first defence of the title he won in California last year is not a tough one on paper. Provided his mobility is not affected he should comfortably stave ofs the challenge of the Canadian-born Romanian southpaw Jo Jo Dan in hometown Sheffield.

But will the memory of that night cause his concentration to waver if things start to go wrong? Knowing Brook, I doubt it.

Should he dispose of Dan, Brook reckons he will be in pole position to meet the winner the Mayweather-Pacquiao blockbuster but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Amir Khan or a number of available US welterweights are far more likely to be on their radar – always provided there won’t be Mayweather-Pacquiao II later this year.

McKenzie’s late flowering could lead to world title shot

Old school warrior Ovill McKenzie takes on young challenger Matty Askin in tonight’s big fight, live and exclusive on BoxNation.

At 35, London-based Jamaican McKenzie has had a late career resurgence with stunning back-to-back stoppage wins over Jon-Lewis Dickinson and Tony Conquest to capture the British and Commonwealth cruiserweight belts, and is ranked above Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly in the independent rankings. A convincing win against Askin could line him up for a dream world title showdown against WBO king Marco Huck.

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