It is a decade since David Haye shared a ring with Derek Chisora at West Ham United’s old home of Upton Park and the long retired Haye believes he would have faced a tougher task had he been facing the Derek Chisora of today than the version he did then.
Haye stopped the 28-year-old Chisora in the fifth round of a huge grudge match back in 2012, a controversial fight that grew out of a press conference brawl after Chisora had lost to Vitali Klitschko.
Now 38, Chisora faces Kubrat Pulev at the O2 Arena, on Saturday night, Chisora has long since patched up his differences with Haye, Haye even becoming his manager at one point but Haye believes he helped mould Chisora into a better fighter.
“It would have been a hell of a lot harder to have faced the War Chisora, rather than the Del Boy version,” Haye said. “He hadn’t worked on his inside game as much then. If he had known what he knows now, it would have been harder. He wasn’t expecting my inside game to be as good as it was, he was expecting me to just run away and outbox him, but I was able to hold my feet, hit him with big shots and walk him back.
“He’s the ultimate fighter. Whether he is in shape or out of shape – and he has taken fights when he is well out of shape – he doesn’t care. All he wants to do is get in the ring and let his hands go.”
Haye gives Chisora an excellent chance against Pulev. And while many have called for Chisora to retire, particularly after his gruelling loss to Joseph Parker in December, Haye believes he has every right to fight on as long as he wants.
“He’s a fighter,” Haye said. “That’s what he does and that’s what he continues to do. He’s lost a few fights but he has always pushed it very close.
“Every fight could be his last. He knows that; his team knows that. End up on the battlefield with no bullets left in the gun, that’s the mentality.
"As far as I’m aware, he’s a good advertisement for a fighter in their twilight years - making money, supporting his family and doing what they love to do.”
Haye believes that the key for Chisora will be to avoid Pulev’s jab. Do that and he can win.
“Pulev has been in his comfort zone for a long time,” Haye said. “He does everything behind the jab on his own terms and he needs a breather with his style.
“If Derek can get inside him and force him to fight for every minute of every round, he can grind him down and stop him late. But Derek will have to be in supreme shape and he can’t be eating that jab. If he can’t get round the jab in the first couple of rounds it is going to be a very difficult fight for Derek. But he knows it, he is aware of what needs to be done.
“I’m not sure if it would count as an upset, but this would be a massive win that would catapult him up in the rankings and if you are a champion who is looking to make a voluntary defense, a heavyweight who fills up the O2 is not a bad option.”
David Haye will be part of the DAZN commentary team for Chisora v Pulev.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.