Boxing: Harrison is a 'warm-up fight' for Haye

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The Independent Online

David Haye views tomorrow's showdown with Audley Harrison as merely "a warm-up fight" as he aims to fight both Klitschko brothers and retire in 2011.

The WBA heavyweight champion defends his belt against fellow Londoner Harrison at Manchester's MEN Arena in a fight only made because he was unable to secure a unification bout with one of the Ukrainian siblings.

While the contest has attracted a sell-out crowd and significant Sky Box Office figures already, it is expected to be a one-sided affair between the big-hitting champion and often timid challenger.

Indeed, Haye has been fiercely critical of Harrison's world title credentials and admitted this week he just hopes his former friend does not capitulate too early tomorrow.

The 30-year-old told Press Association Sport: "This is definitely a warm-up fight.

"I don't like to look at it like that because it's a big event in itself. He's a southpaw and they (the Klitschkos) are orthodox fighters so it's not a warm-up fight technically, it's just another big fight which will get similar sort of publicity."

Haye had hoped to have retired as undisputed champion this year but with negotiations with WBC champion Vitali Klitschko and IBF/WBO king Wladimir repeatedly stumbling, the Londoner is still hanging on.

"In an ideal world I'll fight both Klitschkos next year and retire," he continued.

"First they need to get off their high horses and realise I bring more to the table than they do. Television rights is one of the first points we've stumbled at."

Haye added: "There's a few different reasons but the bottom line is they are not treating me like a champion. They are not coming to the champion as if they are dealing with a champion, so as long as they are treating me like a challenger, the fight is not going to happen.

"I think they know they are going to lose. Wladimir has been knocked out by guys who are like myself, fast. Corrie Sanders chinned him, Lamon Brewster chinned him, Samuel Peter knocked him down. Guys that are around my size. He sees me knocking people out, hurting (7ft tall) Nikolay Valuev. Why hasn't he fought Valuev?

"With all the people he's fought over the years, it's a coincidence how he only fights the little short arse guys. The big guy out there, he hasn't fought. And he still won't fight him, even though I've beaten him they still find a way for the fight not to happen. With all these silly contracts they want people to sign.

"I think it has to happen but whether they want it to happen is a different story.

"The politics get in the way but if it's going to happen, it's going to happen. I've just got to focus on Audley and can't look too far into the future and fall short. I'm not going to let that happen. I've seen guys do it in the past."

Harrison is a huge underdog heading into the fight following years of flattering to deceive since winning gold at the 2000 Olympics.

However, a European title win in April, coming from behind to knock out Michael Sprott late on, earned him enough credibility to finally win him a world title shot.

And the 39-year-old indicated he may quit while he is ahead if he does produce a shock win in Manchester.

"Once I've won that title it's mission complete for me," he told Press Association Sport.

"There'll be a moment of reflection and then I'll sit down and decide what I want to do next."

The feverish promotional build-up to the fight has seen the pair bickering exhaustively having fallen out four years ago. Harrison, though, has now chosen to play down the spat.

"You know what? There's no hate," he said.

"There's no hate on my side, this is strictly business. David Haye has done me wrong, coming through, but it's no big deal.

"Once I've knocked David Haye out, I hope people show him compassion and help him up."