Haye signs with Golden Boy, has big plans in heavyweight division

Updated: May 27, 2008, 1:04 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Golden Boy Promotions has bagged another star.

Oscar De La Hoya's company, which built its reputation as one of boxing's leading promoters on the strength of its boss and the numerous star fighters it promotes, had rarely been involved in the heavyweight division until signing David Haye on Tuesday.

If you look at the heavyweight landscape, it is waiting for someone like David Haye to come along. If he can succeed at heavyweight, boxing fans around the world will have a heavyweight who can define the division and the sport.

-- Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer

Haye, the world cruiserweight champion, is moving up to heavyweight, where he is expected to have an immediate impact on a division in desperate need of an injection of excitement.

"If you look at the heavyweight landscape, it is waiting for someone like David Haye to come along," Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com from London, where he finalized the deal. "He even has a strong female following like Oscar. He's very exciting in the ring. He knocks guys out and he gets dropped. If he can succeed at heavyweight, boxing fans around the world will have a heavyweight who can define the division and the sport."

Haye signed a five-year deal with Golden Boy, which will be his exclusive promoter when he fights in the United States -- which he plans to do -- and co-promoter with his newly formed company, Hayemaker Productions, in the United Kingdom.

Haye (21-1, 20 KOs) had been negotiating with Golden Boy since meeting with company officials in Las Vegas in mid-April during the Joe Calzaghe-Bernard Hopkins fight week. Although several promoters were interested, Haye said he always wanted to go with Golden Boy.

"It was a simple choice. It was really a one-horse race on who to sign with," Haye told ESPN.com from London. "I talked to Oscar and [Golden Boy fighters] Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, even Ricky Hatton. They all said to me they are earning two, three, even four times as much as they were earning with anyone else. I wanted to get on board with that."

Haye said he hoped to follow De La Hoya's lead in becoming a top promoter. His company, Hayemaker Productions, also signed a deal with U.K. subscription network Setanta Sports to exclusively televise his next four bouts throughout Great Britain. Under the deal that runs through 2009, Setanta will also televise six other Hayemaker cards, which will feature at least a British title bout.

"I want to take over in the heavyweight division and become the leading promoter in the U.K." Haye said. "I want to do what Oscar and Golden Boy are doing. That has always been an ambition of mine."

As for his heavyweight future, Haye will return to the ring in November at London's O2 Arena, where a sold-out crowd of 20,000 turned out March 8 to watch him knock out Wales' Enzo Maccarinelli in the second round to further unify the cruiserweight division.

Each of Haye's next four bouts is supposed to take place at the O2 Arena, which is owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group. AEG recently purchased a minority stake in Golden Boy Promotions.

Schaefer said he would talk to HBO and Showtime about their November schedules, but he is confident that Haye's heavyweight debut would be on one of the networks. Golden Boy has a close relationship with HBO and has rarely done business with Showtime. Schaefer said he wanted to talk to Showtime because it televised Haye's victory against Maccarinelli, the first Haye fight broadcast in the United States.

"Showtime had his last fight. They should have the opportunity to have his next fight," Schaefer said.

Schaefer said Haye's contract with Setanta required him to fight a heavyweight ranked in the top 10 by any of the four major sanctioning organizations. Schaefer said no opponent has been signed, but he threw out such names as former champions Hasim Rahman and Oleg Maskaev as possibilities.

Whomever he fights next, Haye wants to eventually challenge unified titleholder Wladimir Klitschko, the No. 1 heavyweight.

"I see myself at the top of the pile in the heavyweight division," Haye said. "There's only one guy out there and that's Wladimir Klitschko. That's who I have my eyes set on. He's the premier heavyweight on the planet right now and I am coming for him. It's always been my strategy to go after the best. I went after Jean-Marc Mormeck because he held the real cruiserweight title, the Ring magazine title, and he was the linear champion. I want to go after the best at heavyweight, too."

Haye, 27, knocked out Mormeck in the seventh round on Nov. 10 in Paris to win the cruiserweight championship.

Haye said he'd like to get Klitschko into the ring in the middle of 2009.

"I'm the only big fight for him," Haye said. "Who else is he going to fight? That big hairy freak from Russia [Nikolai Valuev]? The guy who has hepatitis [titleholder Ruslan Chagaev]? He already beat Samuel Peter. There's nothing else out there for Klitschko. Fighting me is a no-brainer."

Haye is a charismatic puncher who also brings drama to his fights because he has been knocked down and likes to exchange punches. But there are questions about whether his chin will hold up against bigger men.

"That is the question," Schaefer said. "But this guy has the opportunity to step up to the heavyweight division and make an impact. Whether he will succeed or not, I don't know. We believe he can. I think we are in for a treat."

Haye is aware of the questions about his chin, but said, "I always give value for money and I am so excited I want to start training tomorrow for the November fight. I live and breathe boxing. I want to put heavyweight boxing back on the map. Heavyweight boxing is a joke right now. Nobody respects it. I will change the face of heavyweight boxing. I will be fighting legitimate opponents, guys in the top 10. I will not only beat them, I will obliterate them. I will fight a top name in November that Americans will respect and I will deliver a violent knockout win."

Haye said he will eventually make his way to the United States to fight.

"It's always been my dream to fight in Las Vegas," he said. "I was there for Hopkins-Calzaghe and I loved every minute of it. I loved being around the big fight in Las Vegas. I want some of that, so I will be fighting there."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.