David Haye believes “boxing is evolving” as he prepares to make his comeback on Saturday in Florida.
The former two-weight world champion returns three years after his last bout, fighting Joe Fournier on the undercard of Evander Holyfield’s clash with retired MMA legend Vitor Belfort.
Haye, 40, retired after successive defeats by Tony Bellew and his comeback has been branded a mismatch by some fans – Fournier has had just nine professional fights, is primarily a businessman and is Haye’s friend.
YouTubers and celebrities trying their hand at boxing has become a big talking point, but Haye has defended his comeback decision and said fight nights like his could be the future of boxing.
“I see it very similar as going to watch The Expendables with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone and all of those legends,” Haye told BBC Sport.
“The purists will say this is ridiculous, why am I fighting this guy? But you don’t have to watch it.
“If you look at the Logan Paul and KSI fights, on the undercard you had legitimate world champions earning more money than they would have done fighting on a traditional boxing card.
“We’ve got a great fighter Jono Carroll fighting on the undercard of our show and he’s earning more money than ever before.
“It’s giving younger fighters more options and more money to do what they want to do. It’s actually stimulating boxing.”
Holyfield – who last fought in 2011 and turns 59 next month – has stepped in to replace Oscar de la Hoya, who contracted Covid-19 last week. The fight was moved to Florida when the California State Athletic Commission refused organiser Triller’s request to sanction the new headliner.
A host of major broadcasters, including BT Sport and Sky Sports, have been convinced to pay for exhibition fights because of their popularity. Logan Paul’s bout with Floyd Mayweather in June reportedly produced more than one million pay-per-view buys on Showtime.
Haye and Holyfield’s contests have been sanctioned as professional fights and Haye is convinced attempts to resist this new theatrical element in boxing is futile.
“The traditional tried-and-tested model of boxing has changed,” Haye said.
“I think boxing is evolving. Some people are uncomfortable with that, understandably. When vinyl went to CDs I was really unhappy.
“I was a purist, but it’s the way the world goes. I used to walk around Blockbuster on Friday nights looking for a movie to watch. Sounds crazy, but that’s how things were.”
He continued: “Holyfield is still as much as a hero in my mind as he was 30 years ago.
“I’m fully aware Holyfield’s not going to be as fast or athletic as he was, but neither was Stallone or Schwarzenegger and I watched every Expendables movie and loved every single one of them.
“It was a nostalgic energy I got from it and that’s why people will tune into these Triller legend shows.”