David Haye is on a relentless mission to box one of the Klitschko brothers in a world heavyweight title unification bout, but in the meantime he has not overlooked the threat of Saturday’s experienced opponent John Ruiz.
The World Boxing Association (WBA) champion, boxing’s unofficial king of trash-talk, faces American Ruiz in his first defense after out-pointing Russian giant Nikolay Valuev for the belt in November.
Haye-Ruiz is the first world heavyweight title bout to be held in Britain for nearly 10 years, since Lennox Lewis beat South African Francois Botha, and will be watched by a sell-out crowd of 19,000 at the MEN Arena in Manchester.
The heavyweight division has been described as going through a fallow period, yet the big live gate that will see Haye-Ruiz follows the 50,000 fans that paid to see Wladimir Klitschko against American Eddie Chambers at the ESPRIT Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany, last month.
WBC champion Vitali Klitschko, 38, defends his title against Poland’s Albert Sosnowski on May 29 while IBF-WBO titles-holder Wladimir, 33, looks likely to next fight Alexander Povetkin, of Russia, in September.
Haye, 29, is confident of meeting one of the Klitschkos so long as he overcomes Ruiz, 38, a former two-time WBA champion.
“I know the super fights against the likes of the Klitschkos that I want will not happen if this fight doesn’t go the way I want and I’m looking to make a statement against Ruiz,” Haye said.
“If the Klitschkos keep winning, fingers crossed. I have given myself 18 months to achieve what I want,” he said. “I am not looking too far into the future. I am just focusing on making sure John Ruiz is dispatched in good style. Once he is out of the way I will sit back and look at the heavyweight landscape and see who fits where and try to make it happen.”
The Londoner insists he is not taking victory over Ruiz for granted and considers him a more awkward opponent than 2.18m tall Valuev.
“I learnt the lesson not to be complacent a long time ago,” added Haye, whose only professional defeat came when he was stopped in the fifth round by fellow Briton Carl Thompson. “I can close my eyes and can still feel the pain of that defeat. I don’t want to go down that road again.”
Haye enjoys winding up his rivals. He left the Klitschkos furious by wearing a T-shirt showing himself holding their decapitated heads and dismissed Valuev as “a circus freak” who “makes the Elephant Man look like Pamela Anderson.”
Haye’s baiting of Ruiz has been tame in comparison, calling the American “a caveman” with “no personality” but the challenger — known as “The Quiet Man” — has shrugged off the criticism.
“He will not have said anything I’ve not heard before,” Ruiz said. “I’ve heard it all before from A to Z. Anything he can come up with is no big deal to me.
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