Haye began boxing at the age of 10, and he has said that even then he planned to retire before the sport did him lasting harm. With that in mind he has declared his intention to retire at the age of 31 in October 2011.
David’s career has been strongly influenced by his trainer, Adam Booth. The two met in 1996 when David was just 15 years old. Haye’s performance sparring against a professional boxer impressed Booth very much. Booth himself had been a successful amateur boxer but his professional chances were wrecked by a leg injury sustained playing football. Haye has often emphasised how much he values Booth as someone whom he can trust in a boxing world where trustworthiness is a rare quality. He has also described Adam Booth as being “like a brother”. In such a punishing and demanding profession, such a strong bond between trainer and fighter is vital.
In the immediate aftermath of David Haye’s defeat against Wladimir Klitschko it is unclear whether he will stick to his plan to retire later this year. Whatever Haye decides, he has quite a career to look back on. An early foray into the word of fashion saw the young David Haye modeling clothes for Versace and Abercrombie & Fitch. Although Haye enjoyed the experience, he quickly decided to concentrate solely on boxing.
As a fighter, Haye’s record is very respectable. He was an amateur world heavyweight champion. When he turned professional in 2002 he fought at cruiserweight. A couple of years later, in his 10th pro bout, Haye stopped former IBF champion ‘King’ Arthur Williams in the third round. A glitch in his next fight saw Haye knocked out by ex-WBO champion Carl Thompson in a battle for the IBO Cruiserweight Championship; the only defeat in his professional career until the Klitschko fight.
David later took full responsibility for his loss against Thompson. In a 2009 Sunday Times interview he said:
“I was cutting more and more corners but still getting results and I looked at Carl Thompson and thought, ‘He’s old. I’m younger. I’m fresher. I’m much more athletic. I can take this guy out’. I had a game plan to break him down slowly because he’s a tough customer but I got out there and heard the roar of the crowd and thought, ‘I’ll knock him out quick’. It was the wrong mindset and I paid the price. I ran out of steam completely, punched myself out in four rounds.”
The lessons learned served David well and he went on win all of his subsequent bouts until the meeting with Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg on 2 July 2011.
Following the Klitschko fight, the media made much of Haye’s revelation, made immediately after the bout, that he had fought with a broken little toe. The excuse was widely ridiculed, and former heavyweight champion Frank Bruno expressed the opinion that the Hayemaker should never have got into the ring with such an injury.
“If he had a broken toe I would advise him to pull out,” said Bruno. “[…] If you’ve got a broken toe your balance and everything goes[…]. If he fought with a broken toe he must be a very brave man.”
Haye had been faced with a difficult decision though. In 2009 he had been forced to pull out of an earlier date against Klitschko due to a back injury. To postpone the reckoning yet again would invite claims that he was afraid of Wladimir, and would also leave little time for the fight to be rescheduled before his intended retirement date.
The injury may have impeded Haye, but he still acknowledged Wladimir Klitschko’s superior performance. The day after the fight, Haye tweeted: “Wladimir was the better man last night. He did exactly what he needed to win decision. He’s a great fighter, and a hard man to beat. Respect.”
It would be nice to see Haye come back to win the undisputed, unified heavyweight title before he hangs up his gloves. We don’t doubt that he has the heart, skill and speed to do it. On the other hand, who could blame him if he chose to follow his original plan and retire from a dangerous profession with a healthy mind, body and bank balance. Whatever the future holds for David Haye, we wish him well.
Interview and photographs: Angela Banh
Story: Rick Cadger
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