From poles to Russians

Danny Watts drops scaffolding to be Nikolai Valuev

By Tim Hobbs   Last updated: 3rd November 2009  

The sharpness is there. I am not sure we have necessarily been working towards a knockout, but if it does come I don't think Nikolai Valuev will have been hit as hard and as sharply as that. I knew David Haye but I have been surprised by his speed.

Danny Watts
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WBA Heavyweight title
David Haye v Nikolai Valuev
Saturday, November 7
Live on Sky Box Office
Call 08442 410888 to book now

When you walk into the South London bolt-hole David Haye has been using to prepare for his showdown with Nikolai Valuev, the first thing you see is a life-size cut-out of the giant Russian.

The second thing you see - and hear - is Danny Watts.

Which is just as well because for the last two months the likeable Londoner has been the WBA champion re-incarnate.

Watts has been the mainstay of a training camp built around tackling the biggest world champion the sport has ever seen. Brought in for sparring because of his size and skill, he has been on the pads, in the body-bag, and done just about anything he can to help Haye get ready for the fight of his life.

Sparring may be done now, but Watts is central to both the mood and the mechanics of the close-knit team trying to fathom just how to fell a giant that stands over seven-foot tall and will weigh anything up to 24-stones on Saturday night.

With the hard graft done, Haye is now fine-tuning. Watts still helps out in the ring, but his duties range far wider; from opening up the gym, to putting out chairs for the media workout, to shifting weights, to warning a over-zealous photographers not to get too close to the champion-in-waiting.

It is a far cry from his usual job as a scaffolder and one the accomplished amateur and twice ABA champion - he gave up the sport with a pro record of 10-2 - is loving.


"I'm here to be Valuev more or less - although I'm better looking obviously!" he tells

"There were other sparring partners, one from America, France and Canada, but I was here before them and I am still left.

"So now I do everything; like set up the gym, basically anything - chief cook and bottle-washer. And the man that goes on the Nando's run.

"David knows my brother from going out, although I met him a few times as an amateur. Then, when the Klitschko fight was happening, David asked me if I wanted to come out to Cyprus and do a bit of sparring and training because of the height.

"I got on really with David and Adam and everything worked out alright but obviously that fight didn't happen because of injuries, but when this got signed, Adam asked if I wanted to come on board.

"I rang work to see if I could get the time off and I've been here 11 weeks now and I'm doing things I wouldn't normally do like flying to Nuremberg for the press conference, going up to Manchester to spar in Ricky Hatton's gym, going to Chelsea in a box

"We were sat on the half-way line. I'm not really a Chelsea fan, but I don't want to go to another football match after that!"

He will though, be going to another boxing match.

The 36-year-old is currently out in Nuremberg with Haye and will be ringside on Saturday night knowing that if his mate pulls off one of the biggest shocks in modern-day boxing, he will have played a huge part. Literally.

Watts, who stands at 6ft 7in, was on the shortlist - to use the wrong phrase - for the latest heavyweight Prizefighter only for the British Board of Control to deny him a slot because he had been inactive for so long.

But his loss, and perhaps Prizefighter's, was Haye's gain.


"I did the pads before Adam (Booth) brought those poxy (Gothic platform) boots. I was doing a lot more pads because of the height, and wearing the body-bag because Adam just can't take them sort of punches - he'd be all over the place!"

"Valuev is five inches taller than me, which is not that much difference. And he tends to duck down, so when I've been sparring I've been staying upright - he comes down about four or five inches, so it's pretty much the same.

"His handspeed is not bad; he's not as Neanderthal as people think. If you're in front of him he's got good speed, but everything comes off that jab.

"If you're not there, you can see him flapping around, it'll be like trying to catch a fly."

It is clear Watts is there for more than just size. He has done as much homework on the Valuev as Haye and Booth have, watching endless tapes of the Russian.

Fitter now than when he first teamed up with them for the ill-fated Wladimir Klitschko fight, he has worked on his own jab to try and prove as close to a carbon copy as you can get.

But there is more than trotting out the positive party line when he is asked about Haye's chances.

You can tell he has thought about this fight as much as the men who will be in the spotlight come Saturday night, not just loyal cheerleading.

And while everyone is worried about what Valuev brings to the ring in terms of sheer physical dimension, Watts is perfectly-placed to assess what problems Haye will pose the big man.


"We've done five or six weeks of sparring and the increase in sharpness and power has been unbelievable," he says.

"Early on I was having some success with the jab, when he was moving, trying to work around and skip; I used to catch him with a lot more than I did at the end. A lot more.

"We know the punches he throws; lots of jabs, right uppercuts and the left, so we've been working on getting out of the way of that. We've watched every fight he's had since whenever and as long as you're not standing in front of him, you aren't going to get hit.

"The sharpness is there. I am not sure we have necessarily been working towards a knockout, but if it does come I don't think Valuev will have been hit as hard and as sharply as that. I knew David but I have been surprised by his speed.

"The punch that knocks you out is the punch that you don't see; if you see it you can take it better, but the last couple of sparring sessions he caught with a couple of punches and it was like 'where the hell did they come from?'."

Watts knows where he came from and admits that being back in big-time boxing has left him contemplating a return to the business side himself.

First though, whether his mate wins or loses, when the ride is over it will be back to the day job.

But even then, so integral has his role been in the run-up to Valuev, it is hard to see him remaining a scaffolder.

Should Haye return from Germany with the belt round his waist, he is likely to be back, having initially been brought in for the Klitschko fight.

"It does make me want to get back in the ring; I've got the flavour back. But having had a taste of this, I'll see what happens," he says.

"But then again, I am sure David is going to win this fight, so maybe I'll carry on working with him for the Klitschkos."

From putting up poles to taking down Russians and then Ukrainians, Danny Watts is happy to turn his hand to anything.

Comments (1)

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Steve Crittenden says...

Two words " Lucky Git"

Posted 15:40 3rd November 2009

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