28 February 2008
DAVID HAYE WRITES EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE 'NEWS'
With little over a week to go until fight night, I am straining at the leash to get things underway and knock somebody out.
On March 8 at London's excellent O2 Arena I will defend my two world cruiserweight titles (WBC and WBA) against the second best cruiserweight on the planet, Enzo Maccarinelli. It is a fight which has been brewing since we both first turned professional, and is a fight which has split opinion in Britain as to who will win and how.
This is the kind of fight I've wanted my whole boxing life. While it was obviously great winning the European and then WBC and WBA world cruiserweight titles, there is nothing better than an all-British domestic clash to get the juices flowing. Although my win over France's Jean-Marc Mormeck landed me the two main world titles in the division, it didn't bring about half the attention this fight with Maccarinelli has. You could also argue that Mormeck - a well-respected and world-class operator - was a bigger scalp for me than Maccarinelli will be on March 8. Yet, in the public's eye, beating Enzo will mean a hell of a lot more than my win over Mormeck last November.
That's part of the reason I decided to take this fight with Maccarinelli. Even though I could have moved up to heavyweight without taking this fight, I realised that this is the kind of event I need to really cement my name in the history books. While the win over Mormeck in Paris was a famous 'away' victory for a British fighter, this fight with Maccarinelli will go down in the history books as a major all-British happening.
Many have said our March 8 fight is the best all-British boxing clash since Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn met for the second time in 1993. Though both those fighters were big heroes of mine when I was growing up, I think this fight with Maccarinelli is even bigger than their two clashes - even more important. While Eubank and Benn were the best in Britain at the time, they were nowhere near the best in the world, at middleweight or super-middleweight. My fight with Maccarinelli is different. As well as being the best in Britain we are also the two best cruiserweights in the world.
Since training out in Miami for this fight, I've begun to realise just how important this fight is on a global stage, too.
Everyone has an opinion on it - even out here in the States. US cable giants Showtime televise the fight live to their American audience and, in turn, offer me an ideal opportunity to showcase my skills without having to even set foot in an American ring. When I eventually step up to the heavyweight division and attempt to make a name for myself Stateside, it will be made that much easier given the interest networks like Showtime have in me already.
I decided to train out in Miami for this fight simply because of the scheduled time of the first bell on March 8. Due to the interest from Showtime and the American audience, Maccarinelli and I won't touch gloves at the O2 Arena until gone 1am on March 9 - prime time in the States, but the early hours of Sunday morning back in the UK. As a result, I hopped on a plane to Miami to start living according to US time zones. This has set me up nicely for when I return to the UK on the week of the fight. Jetlag obviously won't be an issue, either, as I'll continue to live according to the US clock until I walk away with my belts in the early hours of March 9.
Whilst in Miami I have also enjoyed some great sparring. In North Cyprus I would often have to bring guys out there to help with sparring and, though manageable, it sometimes isn't ideal. In the Miami gyms, however, the sparring is all there at my disposal as and when I need it. I've sparred many world-class heavyweights out here and couldn't ask for a better quality of sparring partners. You realise just how good the sparring is when many of the sparring partners are better or more experienced than the guy they're helping you prepare for.
I will return to England on March 3 and will then be quickly thrown into all the pre-fight hoopla that surrounds a fight of this kind of magnitude. No amount of press conferences, interviews, public workouts or photo-shoots concern me in the lead-up to a fight, though. Neither Maccarinelli nor I have ever taken part in a fight of this calibre before, but I have, at least, been involved in big, risky fights, events and tournaments in the past. I've boxed for world titles abroad and have taken part in some of the biggest amateur competitions in the world.
I've dreamt of being involved in fights of this stature since I first laced on boxing gloves as a 10-year-old. I never planned on being an also-ran, someone who'd just using boxing to earn a living and take minimal risks. I always wanted to be someone - to be remembered. Fights like this one on March 8 will live long in the memory, however short the actual contest may turn out. It's England versus Wales. Puncher versus puncher. Number one in the world versus the number two.
My football team, Millwall, meet Enzo's team, Swansea, on March 8 in a nice little appetiser before the main event.
A Millwall win there will be a sign of things to come at the O2 later that night. A Swansea win, on the other hand, will offer the Welsh a short-lived high before a devastating low comes back around when their boy gets smashed.
Roll on the first bell…
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