David Haye is an unlikely revolutionary. The Che Guevara of the thick-ear trade has a couple of million or more in the bank, homes in South London and Northern Cyprus, and these days is more likely to be seen in Stringfellows than on the streets.
Heavyweight boxing's self-styled saviour has never been shy of self-promotion, but his decision to be his own up-front man, staging his own shows and doing his own long-term TV deal, suggests the sport is becoming a whole new brawl game.
Established promoters are sceptical, and not best pleased, at this latest demonstration of pug power that sees the 27-year-old Londoner championing the cause of fellow fighters he claims are being exploited. In his best Obama-style rhetoric he tells us change is coming. And says that as far as purses are concerned, it won't be small change.
Haye's pledge to clean up a division he maintains is composed mainly of "fat slobs" has been accompanied by setting up a promotional company, Haye-maker Boxing, with his long-time friend and trainer Adam Booth, augmented by a £13 million deal with the satellite sports channel Setanta, who will show four of Haye's fights and six more under his promotional banner.
All will take place at London's O2 Arena, where just a couple of months ago he unified the world cruiserweight title. The irony is it was Frank Warren, of whom Haye now says he would "rather retire than work with again" whose Sports Network provided the platform for his leap towards superstardom, plus the near-£1m purse for his second-round demolition of Enzo Maccarinelli.
Warren, who has his own ongoing contract with Setanta, says: "What I find amazing is that I had a text from Adam Booth thanking me for putting on the fight with Maccarinelli and suggesting they would like to meet up to talk about future fights. Of course, this never materialised." Boxer-promoters, he adds, come and go. "They have all done their money or turned it in. Look at Audley Harrison."
Haye retorts that we should look at Oscar De La Hoya. Haye has also signed a five-year agreement with Golden Boy Promotions, a big-fight "co-operative" run by the still-active De La Hoya in partnership with fellow American bill-toppers Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather, to look after his US interests. Ricky Hatton, also once promoted by Warren, is among their clients.
"Golden Boy have taken over from Don King and Bob Arum and they've done it by empowering the fighters, putting control back in their hands and giving them the lion's share," says Haye. "The strategy is simple: pay the fighters what they generate, don't try to steal from them and they will make the pot bigger for everyone. That's exactly what Golden Boy do and it's worked a treat.
"They're generating more money for boxers than at any time in history. Oscar is the No 1 promoter in America now and that's why I am working with him there, and he's part of Hayemaker.
"The sport is changing now, boxers are taking charge of their own destiny. OK, so you can talk about Audley Harrison and argue that it didn't work when he promoted himself, but I have already shown that it's the right route. When I turned pro, I said I was going to do it my own way. I am the undisputed cruiser champion of the world and I will be one of the most exciting heavyweights on the planet. I have been involved in the promotion of all my fights bar the last two. It hasn't affected my training one bit. I'd rather be on the phone doing the business than lounging around watching TV.
"Promoting other fighters is not a money-making scheme for me, I make enough from my own fights, I don't need to take any money from six- to eight-rounders. Taking 15 or 20 grand from a British title fight doesn't mean anything to me, but that extra money means a hell of a lot to someone who's fighting for, say, 10 grand three times a year."
Hayemaker Boxing's acquisition of a fistful of Britain's best amateurs – including two who surely would have formed the nucleus of Great Britain's 2012 Olympic squad, outstanding middleweight George Groves 20, and 18-year-old bantamweight Michael Maguire – has caused alarm, the Amateur Boxing Association saying that the boxers were offered "unbelievable money" to turn pro.
Haye is unfazed: "I'm not starting this company to take money from fighters, I'm giving it to them. There are too many fighters out there not getting what they should be. I've made sure I've got the lion's share at every stage of my career. So many people have told me I'm crazy, don't do it, you'll be blackballed. There'll be scare tactics to get opponents to pull out. There's been a few things going on in the background, where other promoters are worried, shouting the odds, but if they are as powerful as they think they are, why should they worry about us? We're expecting some dirty tactics but remember, I punch hard."
Warren's offer of £600,000 to fight the Commonwealth champion, Matt Skelton, which would have tested Haye's heavyweight potential, was called "derisory". Warren says: "Setanta are taking a huge risk. Haye looks the part and talks well but I am not convinced. Every time he gets hit on the chin he goes on the floor. You can't put muscles on chins. What happens to the Setanta deal if he gets knocked out?"
But Haye responds: "I'll show the world what heavyweight boxing really can be. At the moment you have one fat guy fighting an even fatter guy for the world title. It's a disgrace, a joke. It's time for me to come in, lean and sharp as a real heavyweight. This will be an exciting ride."
The one-time wild child of the luvvie circuit has chutzpah. When, in London recently, Haye confronted Wladimir Klitschko, whose IBF and WBO heavyweight titles he covets after a projected eliminator against the ex-champion Hasim Rahman, there were echoes of Muhammad Ali's "Ugly Bear" pursuit of Sonny Liston. "He was so loud I could have heard his voice overseas," said the big Ukrainian. "He's a nice guy and he's obviously very self-confident, but he is just so loud it's unbelievable."
There is no doubt that Haye has the punch, the pugnacity, the personality to be sport's next superstar. He insists that as his own man he has found his feet. All he has to do is stay on them.
The making of Haye
The kid gloves: David Deron Haye, born Catford, London, 13 October 1980. Son of a national karate champion. Worked as a male model while boxing as an amateur at Fitzroy Lodge club.
The apprentice: KO'd the then ABA light-heavyweight champion Courtney Fry in 1999 but missed out on the 2000 Sydney Olympics after a controversial defeat in the qualifiers. Won England's first World Amateur Championships medal (silver) in 2001.
The professional: Turned pro in December 2002 and became a big hitter in small halls. Record: 22 wins, with 20 KO's; one defeat, stopped by Carl Thompson. Became the WBC and WBA world cruiserweight champion last November, stopping the French holder, Jean-Marc Mormeck, after being floored and cut. Unified title with a second-round stoppage of the WBO champion, Enzo Maccarinelli, at 02 Arena in March. Announced he would be fighting permanently at heavyweight.
The promoter: Always self-managed, he had fought for Frank Maloney and Frank Warren but has now formed Hayemaker Boxing, following Audley Harrison (A-Force Promotions), Naseem Hamed (Prince Promotions) and Ricky Hatton (Punch Promotions) as a fighting impresario.
The hungry fighter: He has a dietary routine of six small protein-packed meals a day, all the size of his outstretched hand.
The ladies' man: Unmarried, a 6ft 3in babe magnet. Abstains from sex for six weeks before a fight. "I've had more than one lifetime's share of women so I'm definitely not motivated by pussy."
The fan: Supports Colchester Utd.
The strength: Fast right uppercut.
The weakness: His chin – and chocolate.
The ambition: A title fight with supreme heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko next year.
The outcome: Depends who hits who on the chin first.Reuse content