David Haye lets out a slight chuckle and adjusts his neatly braided hair. He looks straight in the eyes,as if facing off an opponent on the eve of his bout. There is no attempt to be subtle. But then,boxers generally arent. Especially Haye. If you could win titles by merely taking jibes at opponents,then Haye would have won them by a dozen.
At a bar in Mumbai on Wednesday,Haye landed imaginary blows on two rather mighty opponents. First,the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) for allowing professional boxers to compete at the Olympic Games. Second,on his fierce rival Vitali Klitschko. But that ones for later.
AIBAs decision to allow pro-boxers to compete at Rio Games has sparked a huge controversy,with the World Boxing Council,who are a pro-boxing organisation,questioning the move,which is backed by the IOC. Haye,the former heavyweight world champion,did not mince words when his opinion was sought on this issue. I think its a bad thing that pros are allowed to compete at the Olympics. Its not fair, Haye,who won a silver medal at the 2001 World Amateur Championships,began. I was an amateur for 12 years and competed as a pro for last 10 years,during which I have had 12 round fights and the world championship bouts. To go back to the Olympics and to fight potentially a 17-year-old boy,whos only had 20 fights is not fair. I should not be allowed to go back to the Olympics. Haye said Olympics are for younger kids and amateurs who have striven to win a medal. Rather than pros going back to the amateur level,it should be the other way round,he says.
However,he was of the opinion that it is still some time before Indian boxers should take the plunge into professional boxing. The likes of Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar have,in the past,expressed their desire to switch to pro boxing but Haye believes India first need to get proper infrastructural set-up. Having the skill set isnt enough. They need to get the whole professional infrastructural setup around them and at the moment I dont see that in India yet. I hope my presence here can help them, he says.
Haye was in Mumbai for the launch of a fitness centre along with actor John Abraham. He looked well-versed with the Indian boxing scene,aware of the Vijenders and Mary Koms. So smitten is he by Kom,in fact,that he called her the story of the London Games. What she did at the Olympics was amazing…that was the story of the games for me. Considering that she has achieved this despite what shes been through,is inspiring. I think that has given India a shot in the arm in terms of youngsters,particularly young girls,who want to take up boxing, he says.
And how can any conversation with Haye go without the mention of Klitschko. Asked if heavyweight boxing,which has over the years seen legendary rivalries that have spilled beyond the boxing rings,has lost its charm,Haye blamed it on the reigning world champion. It has been rather boring. But what else can you expect if you have Klitschko as the world champion? he smiled.Haye says he hates Klitschko because the Ukrainian has taken what he loves the most the World Championship belt.