Tyson Fury will take on Dillian Whyte in front of a record 94,000-strong crowd at Wembley on Saturday — his first fight back in his homeland after a run of five bouts in the United States.
The all-British showdown for the WBC heavyweight title will be the first time Fury has faced a compatriot since his dominant rematch victory over Dereck Chisora seven and a half years ago.
But Fury’s first taste of a pay-per-view headline blockbuster came a year before that with David Haye. Two outspoken, charismatic heavyweights of contrasting styles engaged in an entertaining build-up and promotion for a showdown at the Manchester Arena on September 28, 2013.
Only the fight didn’t happen. Twice.
How did Tyson Fury secure the David Haye fight?
Fury moved to 21-0 in April 2013 with a messy, chaotic win over former cruiserweight Steve Cunningham in New York. Then 24, Fury stopped Cunningham in the seventh round but only after being decked in the second.
In his November 2011 fight against the unheralded Neven Pajkic in Manchester, Fury was also bowled over by an overhand right before rallying to a quickfire TKO win in the third.
Fury’s curious and erratic mix of athleticism and vulnerability made him an intriguing-enough prospect for former WBA heavyweight champion Haye, who had come out of a short-lived retirement to stop Chisora in the fifth round of their Upton Park grudge match in July 2012.
A year later, he agreed to fight Fury, having withdrawn from a June meeting at the same venue against Manuel Charr due to a hand injury. Fury’s growing profile made him the perfect opponent to position him for another shot at unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko or his elder brother Vitali.
What happened at the David Haye vs. Tyson Fury press conference?
In July 2013, Haye and Fury came face to face at London’s Park Plaza hotel to promote their forthcoming November bout. Well, not quite face-to-face.
“You’ll have to excuse me. I’m not willing to do a face off as David Haye scares me when he looks at me,” Fury told photographers, tongue-in-cheek. “Maybe later, on another time and date, but I don’t want him to see the fear in my eyes… that’s why I’ve got my sunglasses on.”
It wasn’t just the sunglasses. Fury, decked out in a white linen shirt and trousers, looked like he’d just arrived from a beach holiday. By contrast, Haye stood impassively in a tailored suit jacket, shirt and chinos.
“I’ll have to get my snaps with Mr. Bond while I can,” Fury said in a mocking reference to Haye’s would-be film career.
The press conference itself was largely good-natured, with Fury flitting between skewering analysis of Haye’s professional career and some more scattergun absurdities — most notably when he cajoled presenter Adam Smith into calling him “sexy”.
Haye took most of this in good spirits, even if he seemed somewhat detached at times and not as quick-witted as Fury. Regardless, this was going to be a lot of fun.
Why did David Haye pull out of fighting Tyson Fury?
On September 19, nine days before the scheduled contest, Haye suffered a cut above his left eyebrow in sparring that required six stitches.
The severity of the injury meant Haye was unable to fight. “Gutted isn’t even the word,” he said. “Mentally, I’m on the floor at the moment.”
Fury, as is customary, had other words and even though Haye posted a picture of his injury he accused his rival of foul play.
“Sorry for everyone who bought tickets and hotels. Haye’s excuses are boring. He doesn’t want to fight me!” the Gypsy King tweeted. Fury’s uncle and then-trainer Peter pledged to move on to “better things” instead of rearranging the bout.
Nevertheless, a new date was set for February 8, 2014. That was also consigned to the dustbin in November, however, when Haye underwent shoulder surgery. He would not box again until 2016, by which point Fury had dethroned Klitschko but become engulfed by spiraling problems with drink, drugs and depression.
The two were on paths that would never converge again. By the time Fury sensationally returned to world-title action against Deontay Wilder, Haye had lost twice to Tony Bellew and was retired for good.
What does David Haye think of Tyson Fury?
Haye’s natural charisma and good looks inevitably led to a media career, which means he often gets to predict Fury’s fights. Bizarrely, given Tyson’s development into a formidable heavyweight who now looks to be indisputably the best of his era, he rarely thinks the reigning champion will win.
“I think Whyte is going to pull off the upset,” he told talkSPORT when running the rule over this weekend’s bout.
“This happened at the right time for him and I think the fact that Tyson Fury’s so highly regarded by everybody works in Dillian’s favour. So, I’m going with the unpopular underdog.”
Fury is, of course, coming home on the back of his thrilling stoppage win over Wilder in their trilogy fight last October. After dramatically climbing off the canvas in round 12 for their first fight to be called a draw — plenty of observers felt Fury deserved a points win — the Briton demolished knockout artist Wilder over 12 brutal rounds in February 2020.
Surely those performances were enough to convince Haye?
“I think Wilder has been completely underestimated,” he told BT Sport before the third fight. “I think we’re going to get an upset.”
Questionable calls, but ones at which you could reasonably arrive. However, what Haye said after his exhibition bout against Joe Fournier last September was absolutely not grounded in reality.
“There’s one fighter I’d come back to professional boxing for. That’s Tyson Fury,” a then-40-year-old Haye said. “That big fat dosser, I know his kryptonite, I know what he can’t handle. He wants a fight? ‘The Hayemaker’ will come for you.
“It’s been in my mind for a long time, since 2013. The fight didn’t happen, I got an injury. I’ve always wanted that fight.”
Thankfully, Haye hasn’t indulged in this pipe dream again recently. In terms of beef with the Fury family, that seems now to lie with Tyson’s father John.
“He would say Santa Claus to beat Tyson Fury next Saturday night,” Fury senior complained to talkSPORT.
“He’s a hater, always has been and he’s jealous of Tyson because he’d love to be the man Tyson is and he can’t, and jealousy consumes him.
“David Haye needs to take a back seat in the stands where nobody can see him.”
When 94,000 people pack in to watch Whyte take his shot at the undefeated Fury, Haye will be forgiven for casting his mind back to 2013 and thinking “it could have been me,” irrespective of where John Fury lets him sit.