David Haye talks to Susan Griffin about why spending sprees aren’t that easy, his Hollywood ambitions and his new TV show
It’s a sleepy-sounding David Haye who calls in from Dubai. He’s on his bed after a lazy day in the sun, which might explain the former world heavyweight champion’s unexpected admission that he used to suck his thumb – until the age of 23.
“It got to the point where it was like, ‘I’ve got to stop doing this’. I couldn’t be expected to win the world title and suck my thumb at the same time,” says the man known as ‘The Hayemaker’.
The 33-year-old’s taken time out from the pool, not to divulge surprising habits, but to talk about a new TV series.
Called 24 Hours To Go Broke, it’s described as a ‘uniquely twisted challenge’ and sees five pairs of celebrities tasked with spending £10,000 in just 24 hours.
“I’m used to spending my own money so to spend someone else’s is always a bit of a treat to be honest,” admits Haye, who was paired with comedian Seann Walsh for the challenge.
“I wasn’t sure how we’d get on,” admits the father-of-one. “I thought he’d be cracking jokes the whole time, but he was really cool and we bounced off each other, so it worked well.”
While cricket star Phil Tufnell and Susan Calman offload cash in Iceland’s Reykjavik and David Baddiel and Richard Herring get spending in Armenia, Haye and Walsh are packed off to Cork in Ireland.
“We all had a giggle, that’s for sure,” says Haye, who’d never visited the city before. “I didn’t know much about the place but everyone was so welcoming.”
Although the idea of spending thousands sounds easy, it proved a tougher challenge than expected, as there were rules to abide by. For instance, the money had to be spent on madcap experiences, not just given away; the celebrities couldn’t spend more than 10% of the total on each thing and any spending that went against the spirit of the challenge could be vetoed.
“And then it got late at night, so what do you do then?” says Haye. He and Walsh decided to assemble some late-night drinkers and pay them to come along to an impromptu fancy dress party at their hotel.
“I was paying people to let me punch them in the stomach and all kinds of stupid stuff like that, but everyone had a giggle.”
Given their substantial pay cheques, it’s no surprise boxers are known for leading lavish lifestyles, and Haye’s no exception. He’s “no gambler”, but cars are a weakness. As for the biggest blowout, it would have to be a birthday party he hosted a couple of years ago.
“I spent 50 grand, which was quite nice. It was free drinks for a couple of hundred people, but do that in central London and it soon mounts up. Plus, l flew over some musicians from Las Vegas.”
It’s a world away from his humble background, growing up in south London.
“Boxers all come from nothing. It’s one of the toughest sports on the planet and the riches that can be awarded for putting your life and soul on the line for your fans is amazing,” says Haye.
At 22, he turned professional as a 190lb cruiserweight and, after winning and defending the European cruiserweight title three times, went on to gain victory over the world cruiserweight champion Jean-Marc Mormeck in 2007.
The following year, he joined the big(ger) boys in the heavyweight division, dropping Monte ‘Two Gunz’ Barrett in five rounds at the O2 Arena, and in 2009 toppling the 7ft Russian boxing giant Nikolai Valuev over 12.
It made him a two-weight world champion – and a worldwide sensation.
He and fellow Londoner Dereck Chisora began brawling at a press conference in March 2012, though he doesn’t think the “tussle” hurt his reputation.
“I don’t think it lost me any fans. If anything, it got me more because it went viral.”
It also sold a lot of tickets – 35,000 of them – when the fight eventually took place at Upton Park in the July.
“We got the opportunity to get in the ring and do it properly with rules. It was a sell-out. I won that by a knockout in the fifth.”
Later that year, he was given the opportunity to show a softer side when he took part in I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!
“Prior to that, I’d never done anything where I could be myself. I was always trying to promote a boxing match in a press conference or weigh-in, and I had to give it the big ‘I am’,” says Haye, who came third behind Ashley Roberts and Charlie Brooks in the reality TV series.
As he puts it, “outside of the ring, I’ve got nothing to prove”.
“I’ve no interest in fighting someone unless it’s in a boxing ring. That’s my job and what I get paid for.”
And he’s already thinking about the next chapter.
“I’ve always wanted to be an actor. I’ve acted through my entire career in press conferences, pretending to be angry – that’s a performance. The whole theatre aspect is what people want to see.”
Sylvester Stallone, one of Haye’s “all time heroes”, has already shown an interest.
“I’d love to audition for The Expendables 4,” he says. “The worst he can say is no!”
24 Hours To Go Broke begins on Dave on Tuesday, May 13.
David Haye’s episode airs on Tuesday, May 20