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Haye and Thompson calm ahead of title fight
By Elliot Worsell (September 9, 2004) 
An eerie sense of calm and mutual respect transcended over Wembley’s Plaza Hotel this afternoon, as IBO cruiserweight title participants Carl Thompson and David Haye squared up for the final press conference in the lead up to their highly anticipated rumble on Friday night at Wembley’s famed Arena.

Both appeared relaxed and at ease, and Haye in particular was in complimentary mood regarding the brave champion currently holding his prized meal ticket.

“Both myself and my family are massive Carl Thompson fans, and have watched most of his fights on TV over the years. He’s a gutsy, courageous warrior, and I have a lot of respect for what he has done in his career,” began the challenger.

“If I make a mistake and he lands with one of his knockout punches - I’m under no illusions - I’ll be knocked unconscious. I know he’s one of the biggest cruiserweight punchers in the world, if not the biggest cruiserweight puncher in the world. That’s why it’s such a great fight for me. I thrive on that kind of risk factor. I love it when people think I might end up flat on my back.”

Despite only packing a mere ten bouts in his professional fight locker, Haye has no qualms about tackling an experienced, wily old pro like Thompson so long as it brings him the worldwide respect he craves – and makes a point or two along the way. This battle of behemoth hitters, Haye explains, has been on the cards for a while now.

“When Carl knocked out Hastings Rasani in one round in his comeback, I was ringside with my trainer Adam Booth and we both offered the fight to him there and then. Everyone was saying how good and fresh he looked, and how hard he hit Rasani – and I was serious about fighting him, in what would have only been my 7th fight. Of course, with so few fights under my belt that fight was never likely to come off. But having now beaten Arthur Williams, a well ranked US opponent, I’m in line for a shot and believe I’m more than ready.”

A shot that will tantalisingly pitch youth against experience, old school versus the new wave. One thing both combatants do share in common however, is undoubted, raw, concussive punch power. Having witnessed first hand, Thompson’s ninth round shock dismissal of touted South African Sebastian Rothmann to claim the IBO strap, Haye knows the full extent of the shockwaves transmitted from Thompson’s fuming fists.

“People keep saying that Carl had a fluke one punch knockout of Sebastian Rothmann, but if you actually think back, Carl was competitive in that fight and nearly stopped Rothmann in the 5th round when he floored him heavily. Had the knockdown been so close to the end of the round, he probably would have stopped him there and then. It wasn’t a one punch victory, it was more like a two punch victory,” the Bermondsey banger chirped.

It was at this point that Thompson, a humble, down to earth former two times WBO kingpin who has paid his dues during a long and highly distinguished 16-year career, backed Haye’s claims that the supposed Rothmann shellacking has been somewhat blown out of proportion.

“I’m aware that the referee said he was seconds away from stopping it in the ninth round before I knocked him out – but thank heavens he didn’t – because I knew exactly what I was doing in there, and though I was clearly knackered, I still had my senses about me, and set him up perfectly for that shot,” the amiable veteran mused.

“My preperation for the Rothmann fight was not very good at all. I only had 12 rounds of sparring, and the sparring that I had was with Paul Bonson, who I fought two weeks previous. This time it’s been much better, and I’ve been sparring Mark Krence and Tony Moran who – although I’ll admit I’m not a great ‘sparrer’ – have given me some good sessions.”

Just as Haye remarked on Thompson’s bravery and the thrills that follow his hell for leather style, the self-proclaimed ‘Cat’ was quick to repay the service, and even go as far as draw a rather interesting and noteworthy comparison.

“I’m going to give David a lot of respect for coming out and challenging me like he has done, because not many people actually come and challenge me. He reminds me of myself really, in that he’s willing to fight anyone, and wants to put on a good show for the fans. That’s true heart.”

“I just hope he hasn’t taken me for granted, because believe me, I’m not an old guy, and I still have a lot left,” demanded the evergreen titlist. “I started professional boxing at 26 years of age, and didn’t have any amateur bouts. So I’m still quite fresh in that sense. Mentally I don’t have the wear and tear of many guys who had long amateur careers that started when they were children.”

“When fights are supposedly hard, because of my strong mentality, they are never actually that hard. I still feel fresh, and can still think things through while I’m getting hit and hurt.”

The driven and combative IBO champion finished with a warning to all the leading cruiserweights out there, who, although more blessed and superior in terms of technique and natural ability, cannot match him in one vital department. An area found just to the left of the sternum.

“I know I’m going to get rocked and hurt in this fight,” admitted Thompson. I know I’m going to get hit a lot. I’m not saying I’m the best and most skilful boxer in the world. But I will never stop trying, and my heart will never be in question. I seriously believe that I have a 50:50 shot against any cruiserweight out there.”

Thompson wound up his act by uttering a heart-warming line felt by many boxers, but said by few. “I just want to see the best man win, and just pray for both of our safety.”

Here, here. Show promoter and Fight Academy supremo Robert Waterman was also quick to underline the potential of what looks to be, on paper, one of the most intriguing blends of styles and personalities seen in a British ring for some time.

“Other rival promoters are beginning to unfairly criticise the show, and the top of the bill fight, and all that does is show us that we are running a successful promotion,” the proud as punch fight figure announced. “The top of the bill fight needs absolutely no hype, and the quality of it speaks for itself. We know that the standard we have set here at Fight Academy will infuriate rivals, and we are beginning to feel that backlash now. This show is something a little bit special – although it will be a very hard main event for a lot of us at Fight Academy – as we are fond of both fighters.”

There was no goading, no mindless taunting, no flipped over furniture. This was a press conference for the purists, the connoisseurs of the sport. Haye, the supremely confident young upstart paying fleeting homage to the old task master Thompson. Both putting it on the line for the betterment of the British game, despite connections with the same thriving promotional outfit. You can be assured that come Friday night however, all ‘niceties’ will be empathically cast aside, and the calm that was so noticeable this afternoon will be followed by an almighty, undiluted storm.

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