Since we interviewed David Haye, his fight with Tyson Fury has been postponed until 8 February
The last time he was on our screens, in November 2012, heavyweight boxer David Haye was going toe-to-toe with nothing more threatening than assorted insects, snakes and TV chef Rosemary Shrager, finishing third in ITV reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
Haye, 32, now finds himself facing an altogether more intimidating prospect – in the shape of 6ft 9in boxing giant Tyson Fury. The two clash in Manchester on Saturday in a showdown that’s being hailed as the biggest British heavyweight fight since Lennox Lewis v Frank Bruno. “I was out of my comfort zone in the jungle, so I’m much happier to be back in the boxing ring,” laughs the 6ft 3in Haye, still perspiring after a gruelling training session. “On I’m a Celebrity... I didn’t know whether I’d suddenly be expected to sing and dance or dress up like an idiot. It was also hard living among people I didn’t know. No doubt about it, Rosemary Shrager was a more intimidating opponent than Tyson Fury. I never knew what she was going to do next, so she was definitely tougher to line up against.” But Fury won’t be a pushover.
Unbeaten in 21 career fights and just 25 years old, he’s in his prime. Despite that, Haye already has his sights set higher. “In an ideal world, the plan is to dispose of Fury to land a shot at one of the Klitschkos,” he says of Vitali and Wladimir, the Ukrainian brothers who have ruled the heavy- weight class for a decade. Haye lost to Wladimir in 2011. “But in boxing you can’t look too far into the future. I want to make sure this fight goes as smoothly as possible and that means knocking Fury out in explosive fashion.”
No stranger to slaying giants, in 2009 Haye defeated the biggest, heaviest world champion of all time, 7ft, 23-stone goliath Nikolay Valuev. So what’s the secret to beating a big man? “Don’t get hit,” says Haye swiftly. “If you’re not taking big shots from a big guy and you’re making him miss, he’s going to tire quickly. So as long as I land my shots crisp and hard, he’s going to be slower.
“The art of boxing is to hit without being hit. I’ve been careful to take very few big punches in my career. Other fighters have taken a lot of punishment. I can assure you, I take every single punch in the face personally.”
Mr Calm out of the ring – he spent much of his jungle sojourn sharing the joy of massage – how does he switch to Mr Nasty inside the ropes?
“It’s my fight-or-flight instinct. My adrenaline starts to pump and I have to switch on. I’ve got no choice. It’s like walking down a dark alleyway and thinking you might be in danger. Either you can run fast or you can fight hard. I like to control that feeling so that when I’m up against it I can switch it on and put together aggressive punch combinations.”
With his unblemished good looks, a career on the big screen is a realistic ambition when he hangs up his gloves. “I definitely want to get into the movie industry and learn to be the best actor I can be,” he says. “I don’t want to dabble in it. I believe you have to immerse yourself. I’ve done that with boxing and I’ll do it with acting. I’ve had to train so hard for so many years that it’ll be interesting having to learn something again.”
But first, there’s the 18-stone Fury to deal with. Will Haye’s jungle pals be ringside to support him? “Yeah, most of them will be there, so it’s going to be a great front row. We’ll have some fun at the after-party, too. Cockroaches are strictly off the menu though.”