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Page last updated at 08:36 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Boxing's last crusader?

David Haye v Monte Barrett: 02 Arena, London
Date: Saturday 15 November (2330 GMT )
Coverage: Live on Setanta Sports 1 from 2200 GMT. Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live from 2315 GMT.

Haye (right) says he is prepared to take risks in his choice of opponents
Haye (right) says he is prepared to take risks in his choice of opponents

"Some fighters pick opponents they know 100% they can beat. I don't. I pick opponents who've got the ability to beat me if I do something wrong."
David Haye, British heavyweight

By Ben Dirs

In an age of over-protected and meticulously groomed fighters, David Haye's approach to boxing is refreshingly reckless, bordering on fatalistic.

With his risk-taking and eye for a challenge, it's as if he's on a one-man mission to heap shame on the legions of modern boxers whose sole aim is to remain undefeated at any cost.

In only his 11th pro fight, Haye took on hard-as-nails Carl Thompson, the man who ended the career of Chris Eubank, and was knocked out in the fifth round.

But he was unbowed, and five fights later he knocked out two-time world title challenger Alexander Gurov in one round to claim the European cruiserweight crown.

A year later Haye stopped unbeaten Italian Giacobbe Fragomeni - who claimed the WBC cruiserweight title last month - before knocking out Poland's Tomasz Bonin, again inside one round, in a heavyweight experiment.

Haye stepped back down to 200lb for his next fight and recovered from a knockdown before wresting the WBC and WBA cruiserweight belts from tough Frenchman Jean Marc Mormeck.

Britain's David Haye
I come across well, I do everything I can to come in to a fight in shape, I'm always healthy, I fight the people the fans want me to fight. What more could the British public want in a fighter?

Britain's David Haye
Four months later, Haye obliterated Wales' WBO title-holder Enzo Maccarinelli in two rounds to become undisputed cruiserweight champion in only his 22nd fight.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Haye, like some comic book superhero, immediately announced it was time to clean up the heavyweight ranks. And against Monte Barrett at London's O2 Arena on Saturday, the British public will discover if Haye has got what it takes.

"There's a lot of bravado in boxing and a lot of it's fake," Haye told BBC Sport from his training camp in Northern Cyprus.

"I believe I'm the best, but instead of just saying it and fighting someone who hasn't got a chance of beating me, I'd rather say I'm the best and prove it by fighting all-comers.

"There's a lot of people picking this guy [Barrett] to cause an upset by knockout. They think that if he performs as he has in his last three fights, I haven't got a chance in hell. But that's why I chose him, I could end up in trouble with this fella, and that's what gets the most out of me."

It may surprise some to discover Haye - out of Bermondsey via Stringfellows, with a short detour modelling pants for Versace and fighting at the Playboy Mansion - prepared for Barrett in the sleepy Mediterranean port of Kyrenia.

Take a look at Haye's MySpace site, which includes 8,456 friends, most of them women in various states of undress, and you'll be even more confused.

But his trainer Adam Booth, with a persona as calm as the gardens of Kyrenia's Bellapais Abbey, likes it there. And anyway, Haye, 28, is now married with a young child. So it suits him just fine too.

"There's not many tourists, there's mountains on one side and the Mediterranean on the other," said Haye.

"The people are friendly, the food's great, I get fresh fish every day. It's a healthy place to be, I live on the beach and there are no distractions whatsoever.

"There's a lot of rigmarole in London, a lot of drama, pollution, friends asking if I want to go out for something to eat. All I do in Cyprus is train in the gym or relax at home."

Barrett will fancy his chances of adding to the rigmarole at the O2 on Saturday.

The New Yorker, 37, has been in with many of the era's top heavyweights, including Nikolay Valuev, Hasim Rahman and Wladimir Klitschko, who knocked Barrett down five times when they met in London in 2000.

Barrett blames that defeat on poor preparation and has since cultivated a reputation as something of a prospect slayer, with wins over the previously undefeated Dominick Guinn and Owen Beck in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

In his last fight Barrett knocked out the 6ft 8in Tye Fields, who had lost just one previous fight, in one round, and is a bona fide "live" opponent.

"It's the unknown factor that makes this fight exciting and what will capture the public's imagination," added Haye, who wants to fight IBF and WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko or older brother and WBC champion Vitali in 2009.

"There's always that unknown - what happens if this guy lands a huge shot on David's jaw? Is he going to be able to take it? Will he be able to get up? That's what will get people's hearts pumping.

"I do feel like a crusader and that's how I felt in the cruiserweight division. Guys like Enzo Maccarinelli didn't really do much for the sport in terms of fighting no-hopers time and time again and conning the public. I was so unimpressed with it."

And if Haye's chin holds out and he makes as big of an impression at heavyweight as he did in the cruiserweight ranks, there is no telling how big he could become.

"Ricky [Hatton] and Joe [Calzaghe] haven't got long left and once they're out the way there's a little gap," says Haye.

"I come across well, I do everything I can to come in to a fight in shape, I'm always healthy, I fight the people the fans want me to fight. What more could the British public want in a fighter?"

see also
Haye sets up fight with Barrett
25 Sep 08 |  Boxing
Klitschko hints at Haye defence
13 Jul 08 |  Boxing

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