David Haye believes the biggest fight in the heavyweight division for him is a showdown with Anthony Joshua. Haye, 35, returns to the ring for the first time in three and a half years on Saturday 16 January to take on Mark de Mori at the O2 Arena. During his absence, British boxing has pinned its hopes to a new heavyweight in Joshua.
While Haye was finishing off Dereck Chisora in his last fight in July 2012, Joshua was a month away from winning Olympic gold at London 2012. While Haye recuperated from shoulder surgery to address a career-threatening injury, Joshua's inexorable rise saw him power through 15 opponents all via knockout – an explosive introduction that culminated in victory over Dillian Whyte last December.
Haye insists his return to the ring is built on the belief that he can still win a world championship – with Tyson Fury currently holding the IBF, WBO and WBA belts. But for the Bermondsey-born fighter, there is only one fight that will eclipse all others.
"Strangely, right now, I believe the biggest fight is Anthony Joshua. Bigger than Tyson Fury, bigger than [Vyacheslav] Glazkov, bigger than Deontay [Wilder] - Joshua is a stadium fight," Haye said.
"More people know who Anthony Joshua is and more people know who I am, so that fight for me right now, I believe is the biggest fight. Hopefully Anthony Joshua will continue doing what he's doing and he [Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn] has done a fantastic job: 15 fights and 15 knockouts. He's increasing the quality [of his opponents] and he's passed the test every time."
Hearn has indicated Joshua will look to add to his British and Commonwealth titles with a meeting against European heavyweight champion Robert Helenius while a meeting with fellow Briton Chisora is also an option for his next fight.
But Haye is hopeful a summer showdown with the 26-year-old is next on the list.
"In my mind, he's the biggest fight out there. It's strange the way things work out. I cheered him through the Olympics. I've cheered him through all his fights and now I'm in the position where I get this fight out of the way Saturday night and that's the fight I believe will be the biggest fight in the heavyweight division.
"I believe it could be done this summer. But it's down to him. I'm not in a position to dictate everything. He's had 15 fights, he could easily say I need 20 fights before I start fighting any real world class fighters. I can't complain about that. In my fifteenth fight I was fighting for the European title. He's looking at doing something similar. If Sky and Eddie Hearn believe he is good enough, anything is possible. But as I say, it's exciting times for the heavyweight division."