David Haye‘s comeback continues on Saturday when he faces fellow heavyweight Arnold Gjergjaj in a 10-round contest at the O2 Arena in London.
The Hayemaker (27-2, 25 KOs) was last seen knocking Mark de Mori in Round 1 in January. That was the two-weight world champion’s first outing since July 2012—it can only be hoped his second lasts a little longer.
Gjergjaj (29-0, 21 KOs) is a Kosovo-born, Swiss-based fighter who flattened Marino Goles inside a minute in his most recent bout.
However, the lack of names on his CV does not hint at an almighty upset. Per Odds Shark, Gjergjaj is a 16-1 long shot for victory.
When: Saturday, May 21, at 10 p.m. BST (5 p.m. ET)
Where: O2 Arena, London
TV: Dave (UK)
Live Stream: SkyGo (UK)
Short-Term Gains, Long-Term Aims
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Despite his time out of the ring, David Haye still draws a crowd.
Whatever the reason for Haye‘s ring return—and only he knows exactly why he’s boxing again—his presence definitely adds something to the division.
His long-term plan is to become a two-time heavyweight champion of the world. More specifically, his target is a fight with fellow Englishman Anthony Joshua, the current holder of the IBF belt.
Haye believes a money-spinning domestic showdown could happen next year, as he told Tom Victor of Joe.co.uk: “It’s more down to his [Joshua’s] side, to be honest, but I think realistically a fight between me and him would be 2017. It’ll be a huge, huge fight—whatever month of the year, it’ll be huge.”
That bout, however, is still some way off.
Haye has cobwebs to blow away, and 131 seconds of action against De Mori isn’t sufficient preparation for campaigning again at world level.
For trainer Shane McGuigan, it is not just about working on Haye‘s skills in the ring, as he told Isaac Robinson of Sky Sports:
When he [Haye] was fighting before, he was fighting and then going off on holidays a lot because of injuries. He was spending a lot of time away from the gym. Now he’s fit and healthy, I want to keep him in the gym as much as possible.
His reactions and everything are constantly picking up and speeding up. When you’ve been inactive like he was for three years, you can’t just expect to train for three months and suddenly be firing up so for us, it’s a work in progress.
The journey back to the top continues against Gjergjaj, a foe both Haye and the audience will hope can last a little longer than De Mori at the start of the year.
The Cobra’s Big Chance
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Arnold Gjergjaj has sparred with some of the top heavyweights in the world.
What do we know about Gjergjaj? Honestly, not a lot.
BoxRec tells us he’s an unbeaten fighter who is the top-ranked heavyweight in Switzerland (there are apparently two other Swiss fighters campaigning in the division, in case you’re wondering).
As for his record, it includes just the one recognisable name. In June 2015, Gjergjaj picked himself up from the canvas to beat Denis Bakhtov on points. To put that result in perspective, Joshua flattened the same Russian opponent inside two rounds back in 2014.
However, the underdog has sparred with some high-class fighters, according to his trainer, Angelo Gallina, per Nick Parkinson of ESPN.co.uk: “At the moment he’s the best boxers [sic] we have in Switzerland and the best Swiss heavyweight ever.
“People say he has only boxed in Switzerland, but he can only box where he is getting paid to box and we have made sure he has trained with some of the best fighters in the world like the Klitschkos, Tyson Fury, Robert Helenius and Kubrat Pulev.”
Gjergjaj will at least have a height advantage in the ring. At 6′5″, the 31-year-old stands two inches taller than his British opponent.
BoxStat.co provided a full statistical breakdown of the two fighters:
@mrdavidhaye V Arnold Gjergjaj this Saturday check out our stats for this fight and more at https://t.co/LE2tmu2q4t pic.twitter.com/ELOfS05n96
— BoxStat.co (@box_stat) May 17, 2016
Nicknamed The Cobra, Gjergjaj needs to seize on any edge he can find in his bid to pull off the biggest win of his career.
Even a brave performance in defeat could open doors for the future. A quick loss, though, will just send him back to Switzerland with a few bruises and a tidy paycheck.
It is hard to see anything but a Haye victory. Gjergjaj has simply never fought at a high enough level to suggest he can prosper.
Haye‘s solitary stoppage loss, against Carl Thompson at cruiserweight, was well over a decade ago. On that occasion he simply ran out of steam, a mistake that is unlikely to be repeated again.
His other defeat in the paid ranks came on points against Wladimir Klitschko in 2011, yet Gjergjaj cannot hope to outbox his rival for 10 rounds.
Shannon Briggs—who fights Emilio Ezequiel Zarate on the same card at the O2—is already lined up for Haye, who will keep ticking over as he waits for a shot at a major belt.
He will make quick work of Gjergjaj, although it is hoped the bout at least makes it beyond Round 1.
Bleacher Report will be running a live blog for Haye‘s fight with Gjergjaj. Join us for updates from 9:30 p.m. BST (4:30 p.m. ET) on Saturday.