LONDON -- With six beefy security guards and a steel fence separating the tables, the final press conference for the David Haye-Dereck Chisora heavyweight fight on Wednesday had a decidedly volatile feel. That volatility bubbled over minutes later, when Haye and Chisora took their seats and immediately began verbally sparring.
"Let's test chins," Haye said.
"David, you do you and I'll do me," Chisora shot back.
"What you do is hide behind your hands," Haye said.
"The deal is done, David," Chisora said. "I'm about to go crazy on you."
"Like you did in Germany?" Haye asked.
A brief interlude: Last February in Munich, Chisora lost a decision to WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko. Haye crashed the post-fight press conference, barking at Klitschko, daring him to face him. Chisora took offense and shouted back, eventually charging toward Haye and inciting one of the ugliest post-fight brawls in boxing history.
Now, back to the bickering:
"How many boys do you have with you, David," Chisora said, motioning at Haye's entourage. "Look at me."
"The only thing you will be looking at is my fist," Haye said. "The only thing you will see is the referee counting, 'eight, nine, ten.' You lost at the British level, the European level, the world level, and you lost a street fight."
"Don't get me upset, David," Chisora grumbled.
"Why, because you might get knocked out again?" Haye replied.
If you think this animosity is manufactured, forget it. It's as real as it gets. Chisora uses homophobic slurs to disparage Haye, while admitting after the incident in Munich he stalked Haye at his home, gym and favorite restaurants. Haye calls Chisora a "clown," and brings up Chisora's 2010 arrest for assaulting his girlfriend, well, for no real reason in particular.
The tension between the two is palpable, which is what has made this fight between the two Brits one of the most anticipated in the country's recent history. Chisora's promoter, Frank Warren, suggested that Haye-Chisora would have been a good fight anyway. But some 29,000 tickets have already been sold at Upton Park, a number that is expected to swell considerably before Haye (25-2) and Chisora (15-3) get in the ring on Saturday (4:30 ET, Epix/EpixHD.com). The brawl in Munich may have been a black mark for boxing, but it turned Haye-Chisora into an international event.
Seated at his table, Haye seems to enjoy the attention. It has been just over a year since Haye lost a one-sided fight to Wladimir Klitschko, a loss he made immeasurably worse by complaining that a pinky toe injury was at the root of it. Haye was ridiculed from continent to continent, branded a whiner and a sore loser everywhere.
Haye says he doesn't regret anything that happened after the Klitschko fight. "With the toe injury, David knows that's the game you play," said Haye's trainer, Adam Booth. "If you talk the way he did before, there is going to be a downside."
But Chisora offers Haye a chance at redemption. Haye's status as a top heavyweight was tenuous
A win over Chisora could change that. Chisora has lost three straight fights but one (against Robert Helenius) was a robbery and another was to Vitali Klitschko, a competitive fight many believe was Klitschko's toughest since his loss to Lennox Lewis. He's a 6-foot-2, 241-pound wrecking ball, with a solid set of skills to back it up.
Beating Chisora puts Haye right back in the heavyweight mix. He retired, briefly, in October, but Haye has not hid the fact that he has long-term plans. He wants a shot at Vitali and then, perhaps, a rematch with Wladimir. He won't get those fights by putting down middling, unimpressive heavyweights. But defeating Chisora, and doing it in spectacular fashion, might get him there.
Haye says there are no built-in excuses going into this fight. He says he is completely healthy and as fit as he has been at any point in his career.
"In many fights some things happen in training camp where you have to adjust," Haye said. This training camp, for the first time i have been able to do everything. Nothing has broken down in training. Unfortunately for Dereck, he is fighting the best ever 'Hayemaker.'"
When asked what beating Chisora would do for his legacy, Haye could not resist one last dig.
"I'm not sure it would add anything to my legacy," Haye said. "I beat him up at a press conference [four] months ago. "After i knock him out, he will go back to where he was before I knocked him out. A nobody."