MANCHESTER, April 1- David Haye is on a relentless mission to box one of the Klitschko brothers in a world heavyweight title unification bout, but in the meantime he has not overlooked the threat of Saturday’s experienced opponent John Ruiz.
The World Boxing Association (WBA) champion, boxing’s unofficial king of trash-talk, faces American Ruiz in his first defence after out-pointing Russian giant Nikolay Valuev for the belt in November.
Haye-Ruiz is the first world heavyweight title bout to be held in Britain for nearly ten years, since Lennox Lewis beat South African Francois Botha, and will be watched by a sell-out crowd of 19,000 at the MEN Arena in Manchester.
The heavyweight division has been described as going through a fallow period yet the big live gate that will see Haye-Ruiz follows the 50,000 fans that paid to see Wladimir Klitschko against American Eddie Chambers at the ESPRIT Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany, last month.
WBC champion Vitali Klitschko, 38, defends his title against Poland’s Albert Sosnowski on May 29 while IBF-WBO titles-holder Wladimir, 33, looks likely to next fight Alexander Povetkin, of Russia, in September.
Haye, 29, is confident of meeting one of the Klitschkos so long as he overcomes Ruiz, 38, a former two-time WBA champion.
"I know the super fights against the likes of the Klitschkos that I want will not happen if this fight doesn’t go the way I want and I’m looking to make a statement against Ruiz," Haye told AFP.
"If the Klitschkos keep winning, fingers crossed. I have given myself 18 months to achieve what I want.
"I am not looking too far into the future. I am just focusing on making sure John Ruiz is dispatched in good style.
"Once he is out of the way I will sit back and look at the heavyweight landscape and see who fits where and try to make it happen."
The Londoner insists he is not taking victory over Ruiz for granted and even considers him a more awkward opponent than 7ft 2in Valuev.
"I learnt the lesson not to be complacent a long time ago," added Haye, whose only professional defeat came when he was stopped in the fifth round by fellow Briton Carl Thompson. "I can close my eyes and can still feel the pain of that defeat. I don’t want to go down that road again.
"Going into the Valuev fight everyone was worried for me but this time everyone expects me to blast Ruiz out of there.
"I know technically Ruiz is more awkward than Valuev. Ruiz gets in close and wrestles you so in a lot of ways he’s more dangerous than someone like Valuev who appears to be more dangerous because of his size.
"Valuev was seven stones heavier than me and nearly a foot taller so I didn’t look to wrestle or hold against him, but Ruiz is basically the same size as me, so it won’t be a problem for me to fight up close and get my shots off.
"He is an awkward dangerous character and very few people have looked good against him because he is so durable."
Haye enjoys winding up his rivals. He left the Klitschkos furious by wearing a T-Shirt showing himself holding their decapitated heads while Valuev was dismissed as "a circus freak" who "makes the Elephant Man look like Pamela Anderson".
Haye’s baiting of Ruiz has been tame in comparison, calling the American "a caveman" with "no personality" but the challenger – known as ‘The Quiet Man’ – has shrugged off the criticism.
"He will not have said anything I’ve not heard before," said Ruiz. "I’ve heard it all before from A to Z. Anything he can come up with is no big deal to me.
"I’ve not got the greatest talent but my pure determination to be the best keeps me going. Every time I get a win there’s always something negative that comes after it.
"I’m actually glad he is thinking about the fight because all he has been doing has been talking about fighting the Klitschkos."