LONDON (Reuters) - New kid on the block David Haye can re-ignite boxing’s ailing heavyweight division but he should cut out the cheap publicity stunts, Henry Cooper, one of Britain’s favourite sporting sons, said.
Cooper, the former British and European heavyweight champion who famously floored the then Cassius Clay at Wembley in 1963, thinks Londoner Haye has a great chance against Vladimir Klitschko in their world title fight in Germany next month.
“I’m looking at all the prospects that there are around, and there aren’t too many, and I would say Haye’s got the most potential,” Cooper told Reuters on his 75th birthday at east London’s Repton Boxing Club where he was presented with a lifetime achievement award on Thursday.
“He is not a bad mover, he has got a good punch, he has a lot going for him. What’s more he looks good in the ring, and that is a big thing these days, but he has got to produce it.”
Former cruiserweight world champion Haye, still a relative newcomer to the heavyweight division, has been promoting the fight by wearing a T-shirt depicting him holding the severed heads of Klitschko and his brother Vitali. He also posed in a magazine holding a waxwork replica of Klitschko’s head.
Cooper said he found Haye’s behaviour disrespectful to his opponent and the sport.
“That was totally over the top,” Cooper, one of the true gentlemen of boxing, said. “You’re not trying to kill a guy, you are trying to beat him at something he is good at.
“I would just say to Haye, knock all that showboating stuff on the head and prove how good you are by getting in the ring and doing your business and knocking him out. That’s how you earn proper respect, not with that nonsense.”
Cooper fought in an era loaded with top-class heavyweights and thinks the present batch are poor by comparison.
“If you look around we’ve got no heavyweights, America has got no heavyweights,” Cooper, who fought the re-named Muhammad Ali for the world title in 1966 and lost on a cut, said.
“The three champions now they are all ex-Russians, the two Klitschko brothers and (Nikolai) Valuev. They are just six-foot-seven monsters...they’re not good boxers.”
Haye and Klitschko will fight for the IBF, WBO and IBO belts at the home of German football club Schalke on June 20.
Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com