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."
David Haye takes on Mark de Mori at The O2 on January 16. For tickets visit axs.com or watch the fight exclusively live on Dave from 9pm.