Boxing: From under the arches rises the Hayemaker...

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The man who taught David Haye his craft at a south London club tells Steve Bunce how the boy they called 'Crank' could 'really whack' – and loved to overcome the odds

Nobody really knows what David Haye thought when he was led into the Fitzroy Lodge amateur boxing club gym as a 10-year old and left in the company of men and brawlers for the first time.

Haye, now 30, insists that he felt like he had come home, reached the place where he was meant to be. "I'd been talking about winning the world heavyweight title since I was three and at 10 I was there. I know that is what went through my head," says Haye.

The Fitzroy Lodge has been taking in waifs, strays, street lunatics – I was one of them in the '70s – and world-class fighters since 1908 and moulding, shaping and creating every type of boxer. Since 1946 it has been located in a railway arch between the Imperial War museum and Lambeth Bridge, its sign nearly hidden by trucks and filth and its door seldom closed.

In February of this year one of the Lodge's trainers, Billy Webster, died. He was 85 and with Mick Carney, who still runs the place, the pair shared a unique partnership of nearly 120 years at the club. Haye was at Webster's wake in early March, head down, just a boy from the gym.

"No boy is bigger than the club," Carney insists. "We had to remind David about that a few times! He was a handful at times, hard to get out of bed at times, impossible to beat in the ring at other times. He was special from very, very early on. He could really whack."

The boy is now in his prime as the World Boxing Association heavyweight champion and is still referred to in the old gym in the same way he was when he was fighting there. He is seldom called David Haye; it's "Silly Bollocks", "Him" or the "Crank". If somebody says: "Did you see him, cranky bollocks last night?" It means Haye was on TV and people just nod.

"I talk to some people and hear others talking about him and I just have to shake my head," continues Carney. "Complete bollocks is the only way to describe what some people say and write about him. I've heard one fella tell me that he will freeze when he gets in the ring with Klitschko.

"Freeze? Forget it, it's what he has been dreaming and talking about since he was a little boy. It's what he really goes to bed dreaming about. He has wanted to be up in that ring in front of 60,000 people and against the odds all his life. That's what he lives for.

"A normal man might think about being in bed with three or four supermodels for the night, but not him. No, when he gets to the edge of the ring and looks out at everything and everybody he will be smiling because that to him is all that he has ever wanted. That doesn't mean that he wasn't a pain in the arse to deal with at times," added Carney, who finally after nearly 50 years of service received his MBE a couple of years ago.

Haye was forced to take a year out from the Fitzroy Lodge when he was 13 after pains in his joints were diagnosed as growing pains. The year's rest worked and he came back stronger, more determined and more importantly, free of aches. It is possibly about this time he would arrive at the gym on a different bike most nights and Carney and Webster started to hear stories from the street.

"People have always made the mistake that he is some type of pussycat because he smiles, shakes hands and has always scrubbed up well," continues Carney. "He's fearless and nasty in the ring and he has pulled out some great wins when he was on the verge of losing. He loves to knock people out. He always has; it's just his way and was his way from an early age."

Carney is right, I saw a show once inside the archway gym in 1996 when Haye, who seemed to have packed the place, was just 15, stood about 6ft 3in and weighed just over 12st. He stopped a kid from Rugeley, Staffordshire, and inside the sweaty gym it was like a big fight at the O2 Arena, with Haye taking about 10 minutes to get in and out of the ring. Ringside guest Frank Maloney, who managed Lennox Lewis at the time, was told to keep his hands off.

"He can fight, Babe," was how Webster summed him up to me once and he certainly could fight. He liked to fight and he could also lose his way, not an unusual problem for a south London boy.

Many years later, just under 13 to be precise, when Haye was in Miami preparing for his showdown with Enzo Maccarinelli, there was an incident that reminded me just how much Haye likes to fight. He was staying with his best friend, trainer and business partner Adam Booth in a nice apartment block. I was there to film for the BBC and we had a late meet and arranged an early piece of filming for the morning. However, during the night four neighbours in the block, most probably college boys on holiday, got a bit lively on the landing. There was a suggestion that somebody was called "a nigger"; they were all white. Anyway, Haye was furious but Booth got him back in the room and after about 30 minutes they went to bed; a few minutes later Booth could hear somebody moving about. He left it for 10 minutes before getting up just in time to watch Haye open the front door on his way to knock on the door where the "four steroid bullies" were staying. The noise that Booth had heard was Haye putting his bandages on and searching for his gumshield in the dark! Booth dragged him back inside, they moved early in the morning and missed our filming rendezvous. Hence the name Crank, see?

In 1999 he entered the senior amateur championships and beat the Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Courtney Fry in an unforgettable night at York Hall; a night when there was a danger the venue would be closed down because of the crowd's size. A month later he lost at the same venue, caught cold by a kid from Coventry and guilty of taking a win for granted. The loss still haunts him and is used to explain away his talent by all of his critics. At the end of the summer he went to the World Amateur Championships in Houston where he won and then lost a tight decision to the eventual winner. Haye was just 18 and nobody talks about the Houston experience, which seems odd.

He missed out on the Sydney Olympics when his old rival Fry was given the final qualification tournament. "That really hurt and that is why I went up in weight – I was never going to get selected in front of Fry," said Haye. In 2001 he became the first British boxer to reach the final of the World Amateur Championships and in 2002 at the Commonwealth Games, where he was officially a poster boy, he was nailed on for gold before a shoulder injury forced him out after just one fight. He was no longer a member at the Fitzroy Lodge at the end of his amateur career. No boy, remember, is bigger than the club and Haye and Carney and Webster fell out. It remains a bit feisty, but is not nasty.

"He is an exciting bastard, there is no denying that. I hope he beats Klitschko. We all do down here. He's a crank, but he's still a Lodge boy, never forget that," says Carney.

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders