The comeback trail is well and truly ablaze for David Haye, as he prepares to face the unbeaten Arnold Gjergjaj on May 21st. What was a pretty regular press conference to announce the fight descended into chaos when Shannon Briggs decided to pop in and say hello, accompanied by several members of his team. Once the dust had settled, Shane McGuigan spoke at length with us at BNTV about the heavyweight scene, inflated purses and his good friend Nick Blackwell.
The announcement of Gjergjaj as Haye’s next opponent was greeted by a predominantly negative reaction from the fans, with many questioning the Switzerland-based fighter’s credentials. The underdog went the distance with Denis Bakhtov recently – the man Anthony Joshua cleaned out inside two rounds. Though McGuigan acknowledged it was hard to keep fans happy, he also insisted ‘The Cobra’ was a dangerous prospect.
“You can never keep boxing fans happy. He’s a bit of an unknown quantity, but he can really fight. If you look at him, he’s great in the gym. Whether he can do that in front of 16,000 people and millions on television, we don’t know. He is, however, unbeaten, so we have to prepare for what we’re up against.
“He’s tall, he’s quick, he’s got a good jab, and he’s hard to pin down. If you look at the fighters David’s fought since he’s been a heavyweight – aside from Valuev, Klitschko, he’s been fighting small men. Mark De Mori, John Ruiz, Chisora, even Monte Barrett were small guys. This guy is 6’5”, he’s sparred with the top guys in the division.
“It’s going to be a tough ask for us to look good against a guy like this, but David’s up to the challenge. It’s great to get an unbeaten guy because David hasn’t fought one for so long. No matter what anybody says, when somebody is unbeaten they’ve got that 10% extra, and they don’t know how to lose. It’s going to be a really exciting fight while it lasts.
“Everyone’s always going to be a bit unhappy when it comes to David, because everybody wants him to fight the Deontay Wilders. Deontay is fighting on the same night against Povetkin, Fury is fighting Klitschko, Lucas Browne just failed a drug drugs test. There were talks with Lucas’ management team and his advisers.
“Look, they know the other guys out there are extremely hard fights as well. They all have belts as well so he won’t get as good of a split. You know, if Lucas Browne fights Deontay Wilder he’s going to get s**t all. Against Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua? Once again, he’ll get s**t all. David would have paid him well, so that as the best option for them – until he failed a drugs test.
“Heavyweights cost a lot of money. When you’re David Haye, everybody thinks they’re going to get a massive payout. We’ve approached a lot of people for this fight, and everybody’s came up with stupid, crazy figures. This guy isn’t necessarily cheap because he’s still costing a lot of money, but he’s the best we could get.
“Sometimes it’s those guys that are ballsy, though. He could make this a really hard night. You could get someone who is on the cusp of world contention who costs a lot of money, and just lays down. We’re trying to get the perfect opponent, and Arnold is perfect for us.”
In spite of it being Haye’s press conference, the man who stole the headlines was undoubtedly Shannon Briggs. The American caught the attention of surrounding journalists (you can read his interview with BNTV here) by engaging in some heavy verbal sparring with the Bermondsey-based heavyweight. The 44 year-old is seeking a bit fight in the United Kingdom, though many – including Shane McGuigan – feel there are too many external factors currently getting in his way.
“They’ve got no organisation, they just sort of turn up screaming and shouting. After the Vitali Klitschko fight, he was in a serious state, and I think he was in a coma. Now Nick Blackwell is in an induced coma, and everybody knows about it. Nobody knew about Briggs, so whether he can actually pass his medical tests is anyone’s guess. To pull out of facing Arnold Gjergjaj to face Briggs would be a stupid decision.
“It may not even be a more entertaining fight, just one that’s more of public interest. He doesn’t have his medicals; he doesn’t even have a license over here. He also hasn’t taken a drugs test! There are all things that need to be considered. If he can sort all of that, chuck him on the undercard, and if something presents itself, we could talk about it further down the line.”
Though McGuigan only briefly touched on Nick Blackwell there, he added more about the 25 year-old in a later discussion. He appears to have had some input into the decision to donate 10% of money from ticket sales to Blackwell – someone he has known personally for quite a significant period of time. He said of Blackwell:
“My super-middleweight George Groves was sparring with Nick during the buildup to the fight. I’ve known Nick since he was about 18 years of age, and I’ve always seen him getting chucked in at the deep end. He hasn’t always been able to reap the rewards for what he’s been putting up, and unfortunately after a valiant effort on Saturday he came undone.
“He couldn’t breathe out of his nose, his punches started to lose their snap, but he’s just so tough. He stayed in there a couple of rounds too long because his pride was there. He’s never going to fight again. If you can’t fight ever again, you need some sort of support. I think David’s made his money in boxing; he’s done extremely well, and it’s a very generous gesture.
“He really is a generous guy, and it’s so commendable for him to do that. We can only wish Nick a speedy recovery. I mean, he’s never had it easy, has he? No matter what he does in his life from now on, he’s going to be successful. He’s had to work that little bit harder than anybody else. He’s always pushed himself to that next level. He’s a really likeable guy. He can talk. His skills set will carry him through, and he know he will get through this and live a good life. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed.”
We at BNTV also wish Nick a speedy recovery.
McGuigan seems convinced that this fight won’t be another blowout, and was eager to tell us that Gjergjaj is undoubtedly a step up in class from Mark De Mori. Whether fans agree is another matter. Though a broadcaster is yet to be announced, you can expect to see David Haye vs. Arnold Gjergjaj live on terrestrial television on May 21. Who knows? If Briggs impresses on the undercard, we could even see a showdown between the golden oldies at some point in the near future.