Is Oleksandr Usyk the best fighter in the world?
No. Across the board, you’re looking at “Canelo” [Saul Alvarez]; it was [Vasyl] Lomachenko until age caught up with him; Terence Crawford, most definitely. [Oleksandr] Usyk is up there. Obviously, he has to be up there.
I’ve been here before. What is daunting is when you’ve been commissioned to fight Wladimir Klitschko. Then his bigger brother [Vitali] stepped in – he was a killer. He was brutalising everybody. Derek gave him the hardest fight since Lennox Lewis [in 2003]. The size of the Klitschkos; Usyk’s a masterful skilful boxer; he has a lot of tricks. His ring IQ is incredible. But he’s not a monster. He’s not a concussive, one-punch merchant. I’d rather get in the ring with a guy who systematically breaks you down; Vitali, Wladimir possess that one-punch power, and their size is also a problem. When you’re fighting them or Tyson Fury, you’re fighting three different fights.The mental fight, the physical fight, and the size factor. With Usyk you’re having two fights. We don’t have the fear you’d have for Klitschkos – for these big guys.
The late, great Manny Steward told me on the phone, “You did a great job with Chisora, ‘cause when I came to Germany to see you guys in the public workout, I saw that he was all wrong for my guy”. Those were his words. I’m a strong believer in destiny – maybe it was never meant to be. We were three days away from the fight [in 2010]. Then [later] David Haye started singing and dancing; “Derek Chisora’s a bum; he’s rubbish; why are you fighting him? Fight me”. He hijacked the fight.
Is it still personal between you, despite working together with Derek Chisora?
Yes. One hundred percent. It always will be. He’s not a good human being. I’m not [normally] very judgemental. Excellent boxer; exceptional athlete. What he achieved was incredible; what he done for himself is incredible. But he’s not a good human being. When Derek first said, “I want to ask David Haye to manage me”, I went crazy. “Are you fucking nuts? This guy is not our friend. He doesn’t like you. He doesn’t love you.” [But] I could see the [publicity] angle.
Having now worked with him – he was the manager; I was the trainer – it dawned on me that this guy’s a control freak. He’s very economical with the truth. I warned Derek. When I was coaching Derek, he intervened too much. His staff were there, and he ruled by fear, and I don’t like that. There was a bad energy – a toxic atmosphere – in his gym. There was always a battle. “David, are you the coach or manager?” “I’m the manager.” “If you’ve got anything to add, talk through me, please. I’m not going to interfere with your management. Derek Chisora’s not built like you. So, the things you’re asking him to do, his body mechanics and his make-up doesn’t allow. He doesn’t have fast-twitch muscle fibres like you. He doesn’t have your IQ.”
Have you asked Chisora what it’s like to share a ring with Usyk?
No. I don’t have to. I trained Derek, so I know, stylistically, what he used in that fight – he increased the tempo of how he fights. He was close in the first four, five rounds, then Usyk used his boxing IQ and ability. “Don’t stand in this man’s way – run the hell away from him.” That’s what makes boxers. People like Joe Calzaghe, who are able to adjust in fights. Some fighters don’t have that ability – if it’s going wrong, it gets worse. Special fighters like Usyk – Calzaghe was well down against Mikkel Kessler [in 2007] and he was able to spin it – have that ability, to be versatile. He possesses a lot. Do we have the antidote? In abundance. I’d rather be facing him than training Usyk to face Daniel Dubois. A guy who can take you out at any moment. Deontay Wilder said, “The problem with fighting me – you gotta stay perfect for 12 rounds”. I’d rather be fighting a guy that systematically breaks you down than one who can take you out at any moment.
You trained Chisora for two fights with Dillian Whyte, who recently failed a drugs test…
That crossed my mind. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, but if they find him guilty this time then I’m afraid he’s a serial offender who can’t help himself.
Cheating will aid you to get victory in most cases. All of these cheats in boxing. “I’m going to take a chance. Have the fight; win, lose, draw, the money’s in the bank. Oh, shit. I tested positive.” The money’s in the bank. I’ve never heard of their money being withdrawn. It only lasts for three months of people talking about it and then it disappears. “I do my ban and two years later, I’m young enough, I can come back.” Until the establishment starts to put a really hefty ban – most people’s careers would end if they got a 10-year ban the next man would think three, four, five times before putting any substance in their system.
What makes Daniel Dubois special?
What makes him a special fighter is he’s such an innocent young man. He’s not corrupted in any way. He’s been sheltered and shielded – cocooned – in this bubble. His father [Dave] will tell you so. He doesn’t really know the outside world like you and I. The [physical] strength, and the intuition to pick up things – he picks up things [easily]. He’s very sensitive.
What did you think of Chisora’s victory over Gerald Washington?
I didn’t see the whole fight. When I don’t train Derek, I don’t watch him, because it’s sad for me. The MMA trainer – I’ll tell you why he’s there. Derek Chisora’s at a point in his career where he wants to be where the light is shining. KSI’s a fucking YouTuber. He wants to be around KSI ‘cause there’s a lot of attention around KSI.
I felt sorry for him. He’s [like] my child. Whatever he did, good or bad, in the past put the light on me, and I will always owe him that. So, when I see the guy I really value – we’ve gone through hell and heaven together – going with the blood suckers at the weekend, it upsets me. He’s got old [Chisora’s 39].
Would you like him to retire?
Of course. We have [had that conversation]. Derek knows – one thing he’s not is stupid. He said to me his ambition – even before the [third] Fury fight, I asked him, “What do you want to do – where does this end?” – “I want to reach 50 fights”. He’s done 47. He’s got three more fights. It depends on what calibre of opponent. As long as it’s not someone more than Gerald Washington, operating at that level for the next three fights, then I say, “Let him do it – get it out of his system”. ‘Cause what happens with boxers, if they don’t get it out of their system, they fucking come back. I know Derek very well. If he reaches that 50, he’ll call it.
The more you try to make him not do it, the more he’s going to do it. That’s Derek. If you tell Derek to go right, he’ll deliberately go left, just to piss you off.
I speak to him all the time. He puts a lot of it on. He deliberately speaks slow. Derek’s as sharp as a razor. Derek knows how to make a pound note. The guy’s a genius. What other boxer has never won a title but has amassed millions? Derek’s richer than people who have become champions in the past.
So, he can afford to retire?
Yeah. He overachieved. Derek Chisora boxed for Finchley ABC. Finchley ABC said he’s not good enough to win the British title. He won it in his 10th [actually 13th] professional fight. Danny Williams [in 2010]. Two rounds, knocked him out.
Should he have been pulled out earlier against Tyson Fury?
Yes. Two rounds earlier. This is a conversation we had prior to going into that fight. I said, “Listen, this is an opportunity that fell out of the sky”. He shouldn’t have been fighting for the title. Nevertheless, his friend Tyson promised him – the fight was not fixed – “I’ll give you a pay day” and he wanted to do a trilogy. I said, “Del, I didn’t see this coming, but in the event the fight is not going our way I’m going to have to make a decision.” He didn’t answer me. He trusted me to make that decision.
Remember, it’s his last chance. He trained. We drilled. We wanted to roll back the years. We did everything. On the night, you have to salute Fury. Derek Chisora didn’t even come out of first gear. Fury is either that good, or Derek can’t do what he was able to do. That’s the day I thought, “Okay, this is the end”.
I told him in the corner, “Right, show me something this round or I’m gonna have to make a decision”, and the referee [Victor Loughlin] coincidentally came to our corner and said, “Don; Derek; I’m gonna give you this round to…”. As soon as Derek took one punch he said, “That’s it”, ‘cause he’d already warned us. That’s why we never complained. Everyone jumped on me – persecuted me. All the blood suckers.
I’m always there to protect him. I’m known as a compassionate coach – that’s the title that they’ve given me. That I’m a coach that throws in the towel.
How do you feel about the trend of British fighters seeking to work with American trainers?
Whatever you feel that’s good for your career – whether you’re British; whether you’re American – it’s a trend. There’s some really good coaches here; there’s some really good coaches in America. We’re living in the Instagram world. “I want some of that; I want a bit of that”, so people are migrating. No objections. Whatever you think works for your career. You’ve only got one career as a fighter. Do it.
As the trainer of one of the world’s leading heavyweights, how do you feel about Tyson Fury-Francis Ngannou?
It’s a commercial act. Fury so badly wants to be Muhammad Ali. It’s not a bad thing to model yourself on Ali. Fury’s a historian as well – he knows his boxing history. The way he talks; Muhammad Ali fought a wrestler [Antonio Inoki, in 1976]. Who’s to say Tyson’s not done and that this is part of his exit? Why not? Let him do it. I am pro it. I’m disappointed we didn’t have the [Usyk] fight – I’m a boxing fan as well – but I’m also grateful he didn’t have that fight because otherwise we wouldn’t be training for Usyk.
What was your thinking behind recruiting James Ali Bashir?
I’m a strong believer in the universe. I always lean towards the universe. This was meant to be. I met Mr Bashir when I was in opposition to Wladimir Klitschko. He was very pleasant; friendly. We’ve got mutual friends – the internet’s a wonderful thing – EJ, who’s constantly in touch with Mr Bashir. “You know he used to train Usyk.” “Oh yeah.” “‘AJ (Anthony Joshua) and that lot brought him over, but they didn’t really…”. The lightbulb switched on. I reached out to my brother, and he said, “I’ll be honoured”. He was with us in Spain; we’ve come here, and what I’ve learned from being around him in a short space of time, you couldn’t buy it.
Let’s not make it all about Usyk. Even if he hadn’t trained Usyk, the information, and the way this man delivers it – I respect the journey. He [also] hasn’t sugar-coated it. “You’re meeting an elite fighter who’s mentally strong.” He’s not selling us a fool’s dream –he’s been real from day one.
Even if he doesn’t show it, inside, [Usyk] will not be a happy man [when he finds out Bashir has assisted Charles and Dubois]. He will not sleep well. He’s a human being. He might not show that he’s bothered – he’s going to pretend he’s not bothered – he will have sleepless nights. “What has he told him?” That’s his coach for three years – he won his first professional title with this man.