Exclusive Interview With "Merciless" Ray Mercer - "I Know I Can Beat David Haye!"
18.09.08 - by James Slater - "Merciless" Ray Mercer is the latest heavyweight to call out David Haye. With no opponent yet a dead-cert for "The Hayemaker's" November 15th date, the former Olympic gold medallist and WBO champion has made it clear he would take the fight in a heartbeat. Mercer may be 47-years-old now, but he's still tough, determined and is coming off a win. Talking to me over the phone today (September 17th) the 36-7-1(26) former champ had the following answers to my questions.
Article posted on 18.09.2008
James Slater: It's great to talk with you, Ray. Straight to business, you want David Haye?
Ray Mercer: Absolutely. I just want the opportunity, I want to show the world that I'm still alive and that I can still do it. I think I'd be perfect for him because he's a tough guy, I'm a tough guy and I have a name. Half of these guys that are in the top-ten, I know I can knock them out..
J.S: Apparently, Haye can only fight a top-ten ranked heavyweight. I know you and your team are trying to get you ranked in the WBO top-ten. Do you think that will happen for you?
R.M: I really don't know - I'm hoping. I want this fight and this opportunity, I'm willing to do anything to get it.
J.S: I'm not in possession of all the facts when it comes to the money, but I heard J.D Chapman, who has reportedly turned down the Haye fight, was offered approx $140,000. Would you take the fight for that kind of money?
R.M: I'd take the fight for almost anything. I know I can beat him and I want the chance to prove it. I want to do what George Foreman did, and to do that I have to beat some top rated guys. David Haye is perfect for me. The money isn't really an issue with me right now. I know that when I win this fight, I can go on and earn big money later on.
J.S: Have you seen tapes of Haye in action?
R.M: Yes, I have. He seems a strong fighter, he's young. But he's not experienced like me. I really feel my experience will get me over against a guy like Haye. I'm a smarter fighter now. I never really trained like I should have, but I do now. I train smarter and I fight smarter. Haye hits hard and I hit hard. I know it's going to be tough, but I know I can beat him.
J.S: Ray, the critics will ask, how can you deal with the guy's speed?
R.M: With my experience. I know how to slip and slide punches. Plus, I'm not that slow myself. I just beat a guy [Richel Hersisia] who was supposed to be quick, and I out-smarted him. If I do this right and he [Haye] makes one mistake in the fight, he'll go. The power is the last thing to go [on a fighter] and I'm still pretty quick myself. I'm in shape right now. As a matter of fact I'm going to train in a couple of hours.
J.S: And you'd have no problem getting on a plane and coming to England for the fight?
R.M: I would love the chance to come to England and fight, that's one thing I've never done yet.
J.S: You've already had a great career. You won an Olympic medal and you fought all the top guys, like Tommy Morrison, Bert Cooper, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis etc. What's kept you in the sport so long?
R.M: I never really got the respect I should have got. I was never the best I could be. I never put serious effort into training like I should have done - I don't know if you've already heard this? But I train properly now. I really believe I'm a better fighter now than I was back in the day. I'm smarter now.
J.S: Out of all the tough guys you faced, who gave you your toughest fight?
R.M: My toughest fight? Bert Cooper. I was in the hospital for two days after that fight. I was dehydrated and my lip was split. They don't have heavyweight fights like that today. My manager always told me - 'If he hits you once, make sure you hit him back three times'. Bert Cooper was my toughest fight, but my most disappointing fight was my fight with Lennox Lewis. That was in my home country, two Olympic gold medallists, and I felt I definitely won. As a matter of fact, though he never told me I beat him, he told me I gave him his toughest ever fight. This year, we we're both commentating on ESPN, and he told me I was his toughest opponent.
J.S: So you went to hospital after the Bert Cooper fight, which you won after 12 rounds of non-stop fighting. What must Cooper have felt like afterwards!?
R.M: We were in the same hospital at the same time getting our stitches put in. We were in the same room talking! You're right, that was 12 rounds of non-stop fighting.
J.S: I must say, Ray, and I don't want to get personal - but you seem in great shape after all the great and tough fights you've given us. Your speech is perfect and you have all your faculties. Some fighters, you can tell they're worse for wear after the hard fights they've had, but not you.
R.M: Thank you. I started late in my boxing career. I was 28, and I've not really had that many fights, I've only had 44 fights. Also, I've never really had too many wars. So I should be the way I am.
J.S: It's great that you can give such a great interview too. Just talking again about your glory years, there was one fight you never got that you really wanted - against Mike Tyson...
R.M: (answering quickly) Yeah, Mike Tyson. I wanted that fight real bad. I signed a contract, I signed my contract and started training. But Tyson never signed. That was his way, he would always pull out if he knew you were in shape, that was Tyson all over. That hurt me bad, me not getting that fight. I actually cried when Buster Douglas beat him. That was what I was supposed to do. We both had basically the same style. So all these years later when I'm talking to you, I'm talking about what might have been, I'm still talking about Mike Tyson. I wish I was telling you how it was, not how it might have been.
J.S: And that's another reason you want to fight Haye, by beating him you'll get some of the respect you never got?
R.M: Exactly. I know I can beat him. My experience will tell the story, and I'll be in great shape also.
J.S: You were, and still are, a guy known for having a great chin. Do you feel you'll be able to take anything Haye can land?
R.M: I can still take it. I can tell you, to this day I've never been down from a shot to the chin. Shannon Briggs put me down with a rabbit punch to the back of the head. I can take it to the chin and I can take it to the head. But I don't know anybody who can take it to the back of the head the way Shannon hit me.
J.S: It's been a privilege talking to you Ray. You gave us so many thrilling fights to remember in the 1990s and I think you deserve the chance to go out in a blaze of glory, so I hope you get the fight with Haye. You at least want the fight, whereas some other younger guys don't seem to want it. Just before you go, what would you say was your finest ever win - the one you're most proud of?
R.M: I'd like to thank you for the interview also. My best ever win was the stoppage win over Francesco Damiani, when I won the WBO title. He was whupping my ass good for eight rounds, and every time I went back to the corner I told myself I'd catch him. And I did. I caught him with that 45-degree angle jab/uppercut that broke his nose. That along with the win over Bert Cooper was my best ever.
(Of all the interviews this writer has had the privilege of conducting, talking to the great Ray Mercer has to rank as one of the very best. Thanks also to Rachel Charles for getting me the interview).
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