Boxing: 'Mourinho of the ring' can turn battle of the corners

David Haye against Wladimir Klitschko: Saturday's heavyweight 'superfight' is as much about the trainers and their tactics as it is about the world's best fighters

As a kid, tuning into big fights on the radio, the phrase I heard repeated so often was: "A good big 'un will always beat a good little 'un." Usually that is true, though Manny Pacquiao has proved an exception. So, apparently, did David Haye against the seven-foot ogre Nicolay Valuev, though whether the lumbering Russian was ever that good a big 'un remains highly questionable.

It is a theory sniffily dismissed by Haye's trainer and strategist, Adam Booth, who could be the key figure when the lippy Londoner finally climbs into the ring against the erudite Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko before a 50,000 crowd at Hamburg FC's Imtech Arena next Saturday.

The long-awaited "superfight" between Dr Steelhammer and the Hayemaker will not only settle deep-rooted differences at last but also see the partial unification of the fractured world heavyweight championship, the 35-year-old Klitschko pitting his WBO, IBF and IBO titles against Haye's WBA version – though the alphabetical pecking order still has Wladimir's big brother Vitali, who possesses the more highly regarded WBC heavyweight belt, as the division's senior champion.

Both are formidable punchers and suspect around the chops, but this is likely to be decided as much by wits as whacks, a battle fought not only in mid-ring and on the ropes, but in the respective corners, between two very different tactical geniuses who have never boxed professionally.

Haye's Svengali is Booth, 45, son of a Turkish-Cypriot father and English mother whose unorthodoxy has been derided by the game's traditionalists.

Mentoring Klitschko is Emanuel Steward, 66, one of the old school of American trainers who is bracketed with Muhammad Ali's man Angelo Dundee, Pacquiao's Freddie Roach and Joe Frazier's Eddie Futch as one of the fight game's legendary gurus.

Both men are some way from your archetypal bucket and sponge-carrying cornermen equipped with gumshields and a tub of Vaseline rather than a game plan.

It was Booth who worked out that the way Haye had to beat Valuev was by impudently dipping under his jab, flicking pot shots and skipping away smartish. It is a ploy that is unlikely to work against the cuter Klitschko.

As an amateur, Booth won 40 of his 48 fights and was about to turn pro when he broke a leg playing football. It was then that he discovered his calling as a trainer, moonlighting from his day job as a university lecturer in anatomy and physiology while schooling boxers at amateur club Fitzroy Lodge in South London. There he met Haye and for 14 years theirs has been one of the most intriguing partnerships in boxing.

Haye says of Booth: "When we first met, he impressed me because his knowledge was not limited to the gym. He opened up my mind and even now he's the only voice I listen to. He is the mastermind. I call him the 'Dark Lord'. To me, he's the Jose Mourinho of the fight game." Haye trains at night. "Perhaps it is because our camp is shrouded in so much darkness that nobody else can see the light." .

"I love everything about training," says Booth, a believer in the ethos of mind over matter. "I study how certain fighters do certain things, their movement, rhythm, timing and psychology. The very geometry of moving around a ring fascinates me, I am obsessed by it.

"But I know I have fucked so many people off in this business by doing things the way I think they should be done and not bowing to how other people want me to behave".

Booth gives little away about the tactics for this fight except: "We have been working for months now on a a specific strategy, including a six punch combination . The day is coming to use it. Only then will people believe in the power of mind control."

"Enjoy it, and embarrass him," was the final instruction issued by Booth to Haye's stablemate George Groves as the first bell sounded for the recent fight with James DeGale in which Groves implicitly followed Booth's back-foot strategy to upset the Olympic champion.

"The great thing about Adam is his calmness," says Groves. "He must be as nervous as we are but he helps you keep it together. His instructions are clear, crisp and concise. Knowing him, he'll have a brilliant plan."

Theirs is a team that has rubbed many in the sport up the wrong way, and should Haye come unstuck against Klitschko there will be much gleeful hand-rubbing. Between them, they have already made some £10 million, a figure that will be more than doubled when all the takings from the live gate and pay-per-view are divvied up.

Meanwhile Steward's Kronk gym in Detroit has been a veritable conveyer belt of world champions, Lennox Lewis, Tommy Hearns and Oscar de la Hoya among them. He also guided six Americans to gold medals at the 1984 Olympics.

Under Steward, Klitschko exercises caution, dominating behind his jab, and using his height and reach to stay out of range. It was Steward who resurrected Klitschko's career back in 2004 after three knock-out defeats by relative journeymen, Ross Puritty, Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster. Since then Klitschko's only contact with the canvas has been via a paintbrush, for no subsequent opponent has laid a glove on him. In all, 49 of his 58 opponents have been knocked out, most by the right after being set up with his phenomenal left jab.

Steward says of Haye: "David has got himself into a corner where he has nowhere else to go. He has to fight. He has talked himself into position, creating this fight by his stunts. But he is an exciting fighter and definitely the most dangerous one that Wladimir will have faced. I don't take him lightly. He'll move around like Sugar Ray Leonard but he can punch like Mike Tyson.

"However, he can't throw more than two or three at the same time because he has his legs so far apart. He has speed, and he has heart. But if he boxes as he did against Valuev it will be his undoing."

Haye is six years younger, but four inches shorter and three stones lighter. Can he win? Yes, if he catches and clobbers Klitschko inside three rounds. But for the first time he is likely to realise what it is like to face the power and punch of a credible heavyweight, one who relishes grinding his opponents down as the fight progresses.

At least this is an encounter between two athletic heavyweights with not a pinch of flab between them. Haye exudes confidence: "For the first time he's fighting someone who's healthy and hungry and believes in himself."

Yet my fear is that after all the hype and hoopla, this could be a stinker, jab and grab from Klitschko, pop and hop from Haye, a game of fistic chess with the Ukrainian winning a laborious points verdict in his adopted home town.

Though no doubt, thanks to Booth's blueprint, Haye will have something up his sleeve. Some may think him better off with a horseshoe in his glove.

Haye v Klitschko is exclusively live on Sky Sports Box Office HD & 3D next Saturday. Visit

Pitch battles: Famous fisticuffs in football stadiums

White Hart Lane July 1945: Bruce Woodcock v Jack London (British heavyweight title). July 1986: Frank Bruno v Joe Bugner

Old Trafford Oct 1992: Chris Eubank v Nigel Benn

Loftus Road June 1985: Eusebio Pedroza v Barry McGuigan (world featherweight title)

Highbury May 1966: Muhammad Ali v Henry Cooper

Wembley June 1963: Henry Cooper v Cassius Clay. July 1986: Frank Bruno v Tim Witherspoon (world heavyweight title). Sept 1995: Bruno v Oliver McCall (world heavyweight title)

Hampden Park June 2000: Mike Tyson v Lou Savarese

Waldstadion, Frankfurt Sept 1966: Muhammad Ali v Karl Mildenberger (world heavyweight title)

Veltins Arena, Gelsenkirchen June 2009: Wladimir Klitschko v Ruslan Chagaev (world heavyweight title)

Alan Hubbard

voicesThe Ukip leader on why he's done nothing illegal
Arts & Entertainment
artYouth club owner says mural is 'gift from the sky' so he can prevent closure of venue
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?