David Haye has dismissed suggestions his time out of the ring has resulted in a loss of speed.
The heavyweight on returned to the ring on Saturday night after a three-and-a-half year absence and career-threatening shoulder injury by stopping Mark de Mori in just two minutes and 11 seconds of the first round.
An opponent of De Mori’s level did little to demonstrate what Haye is still capable of. But while it appears his punching power is undiminished, by his previously exceptional standards he appeared slower.
It remains possible that Haye was lacking sharpness having not fought since July 2012 and that he sensed so little threat from De Mori that he did not see any requirement to get into top gear, but having weighed in at a career-high 16st 3lb 5oz - he would previously often be around the 15st mark - the likelihood is he is no longer as explosive.
Haye’s speed and mobility were his greatest strengths, and asked if he felt slower, he said: “I didn’t feel slow at all, I didn’t feel there was any shot I wanted to land that I couldn’t land.
“My speed doesn’t feel any slower at all, it feels better. I think I missed one right hand, I loaded up with one right hand, and I know why I missed that because I shouldn’t have thrown that from the position I was in. Maybe that was my ring-rust.
“It’s very satisfying (to finish De Mori like that). Because as much as I believed I could do it, I didn’t know: I’d never spent three-and-a-half-years out of the ring.
“I’d had training camps but I didn’t get in the ring and fight.
“People kept saying ‘you’re ring-rusty, your shoulder’s going to fall out of its socket, this, that, and the other’.
“Although I knew what happened was going to happen, I was expecting it to be a tough fight, and expecting maybe to be missing punches from time to time, and getting clipped with shots, so I’d mentally prepared to have a hard, tough fight, because this guy’s been fighting regularly.
“I didn’t feel any slower than I did against Enzo Maccarinelli (who Haye defeated at cruiserweight in 2008, while at what is widely considered his peak), the timing, the right hand felt sharp and hard.
“I’m just a bigger version, a bigger, stronger version, with more experience. I’m not rushing my punches now, I can be patient, and not worried about what’s coming at me because we’ve been working on technique.
“I felt really comfortable in there.”
Haye was fighting for the first time since Shane McGuigan succeeded Adam Booth as his trainer, and the new man felt there were no issues with Haye’s speed.
“De Mori was fighting at a slow pace, so (Haye) brought himself down to it (that pace),” McGuigan said.
“If you look at his hand speed he was punching very, very fast. He’s bigger and heavier-handed.”
Haye’s camp firmly believe that heavyweight champion Tyson Fury will not take a fight against him, which may lead them to pursue either WBC champion Deontay Wilder or IBF champion Charles Martin as alternatives.
Haye has made no secret of his desire to fight domestic rival Anthony Joshua, who has captured the imagination of the public by stopping all 15 of his opponents in a stellar start to his professional career.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said a showdown between the pair is “inevitable”.
Hearn told Sky Sports: “It was good to see David back in the ring and although it was a mismatch, you could still see that he looked fresh and sharp.
“I think a fight between the two is inevitable at some point.
“They both seem to want to collect a world title, so whether it’s for one or en route - Joshua v Haye is a mouth-watering prospect.”