Joe Fournier is unapologetic in his approach to claiming facing his most established opponent to date.
The unbeaten light heavyweight is confident enough in his ability to beat David Haye that he agreed to move up two weight divisions to proceed with the matchup. The longtime friends become ring rivals on September 11, when they collide in an unsanctioned exhibition as part of a Triller Fight Club Pay-Per-View from Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I’m a businessman. If I see a depreciating asset, I snatch it up and use it to my advantage,” Fournier confessed during a recent virtual press conference to discuss the event. “If I am ever going to beat a [former] heavyweight world champion, this is the perfect scenario for me.”
The bout marks the first ring appearance by Haye (28-4, 26KOs) since retiring for good in 2018 after back-to-back stoppage losses to Tony Bellew. By that time, Haye—a former lineal cruiserweight champion and heavyweight titlist—was broken down and having overcome numerous injuries, including in his first fight with Bellew. Haye spent the final six rounds of their March 2017 clash fighting on a torn Achilles tendon before the bout was stopped in the eleventh round.
A biceps injury delayed their rematch by six months, with Haye suffering a fifth-round stoppage defeat in May 2018 before calling it a career one month later.
More than three years later, Haye—who turns 41 in October—was convinced to share the ring with his longtime friend in Fournier (9-0, 9KOs; 1NC), a 38-year-old night club mogul who is on a comeback of his own.
“I have a guy in front of me who’s probably had more injuries than I’ve had relationships,” quips Fournier. “But the last time he won (a title fight) was eleven years ago. That’s a long time. He’s in his 40s. He tells me his Achilles injury is gone, in the past. But I was there, I’ve seen when his Achilles had snapped (in his first fight with Tony Bellew in March 2017). I’ve seen the [biceps] come off the bone.
“I’ve been in the ring and sparred with him. I know the difference between sparring him for Bellew I and Bellew II, it was two different people I was competing with. Fast forward. [Three] more years go by. I’ve stayed active. I’m still fighting, I’m still sparring and he hasn’t picked up a glove. He’s come off two [knockout losses], he’s come off a huge injury and he hasn’t boxed in a while.
Fournier returned to the ring this past April, ending a four-year inactive stretch which included a downgraded two-year drug suspension after testing positive for a banned substance in 2016. The comeback fight could not have been a softer touch, facing reggaeton star Reykon in a fight that never should have been sanctioned but which ultimately resulted in a second-round stoppage for Fournier who retained his perfect knockout-to-win ratio.
It will remain intact regardless of how things play out in the ring with Haye on September 11. Their September 11 matchup has not been approved as a sanctioned bout by the California State Athletic Commission, although it matters little. The pairing came about after a casual dinner discussion amongst friends over who would win if the two shared the ring together.
Fournier readily acknowledges such a fight is never competitive at any point during Haye’s stay as cruiserweight champion or as a heavyweight titlist. Against a 40-year-old, oft-injured and three-years retired version, however, is another matter.
“Going back fifteen years, I’m not going to fight David Haye at cruiserweight, hell no,” admits Fournier. “As a businessman, I wouldn’t buy Manhattan real estate at its peak. But I don’t see Haye at his peak. I see him at a huge slide. I’m on the way up and we’re crossing paths. I know that his ego finds it hard because he’s a champion. He’s a trained killer, that’s all he’s ever done.
“Even in sparring, I’ve watched a video of him sparring Deontay Wilder. He don’t play. Within the first 30 seconds, he hits you with an overhand right. It’s what David does. I can see a super aggressive Dave Haye. I’m already aware and I know what I’m getting myself into. For me, this is to me a relatively easy fight.”
Haye-Fournier serves in supporting capacity to comebacking Hall of Fame former six-division titlist Oscar De La Hoya, who faces former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort in the evening’s main event.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox