Join Date: May 2011
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David Haye a knockout hit with special-needs children in Dubai
Journalist: Melanie Swan of The National
David Haye was a knock-out hit with special-needs children during a visit to the Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old showed off his arm-wrestling skills and packed a punch during some mock fighting before trying his hand at something even tougher ... Bollywood dancing.
The English fighter, a former WBA heavyweight champion, was impressed by the services as he toured the centre and met some of its 300 children, who are of many nationalities.
“The visit has been an absolute eye opener,” Haye said. “I heard about the centre but I couldn’t grasp how impressive the facility is until coming here.
“It really is something special and one thing that resonates with me is the smiles. All the kids are happy. They’re interacting and learning and it’s so nice to see.”
The visit was part of the boxer’s plan to make corporate social responsibility an important part of his new venture in the city, the Hayemaker Gym.
Rashid Al Arshi, a friend of Haye, is a member of the 20-year-old centre’s founding family. His aunt, Maryam Othman, is the director.
He said such celebrity visits were invaluable, and said other famous visitors have included footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan.
“David coming here gives us a boost and opens doors that helps the centre,” Mr Al Arshi said. “It helps give us visibility and focus attention on the centre and the children, raising awareness we may not otherwise have.
“There are many generous people and corporations donating but it’s the big figures like David showing their support which helps encourage others to support us too.”
Ms Othman agreed. “People like David giving us their time and attention is great as it makes others look at us and the children,” she said. “It adds to our services and helps us to communicate the message about them to the community.”
Haye has big plans for the UAE, with things he wants to achieve within 10 years. One is to help in the fight against diabetes.
His gym, which is due to open in Downtown Dubai in the coming months, will have an organic cafe and he hopes to open others around the city.
“The diabetes situation in the UAE is through the roof and you only have to go to one of the local malls to see all the bad junk food that’s all around,” Haye said.
“We have done our research and don’t believe there are that many healthy eateries around ... and that’s what’s needed.
“Diabetes is a big issue out here and it’s diet. A lot of it’s self inflicted and comes from a lack of education, knowing what to eat, when to eat it. Living healthier, eating clean, that’s what’s needed.”
Also on the list is to establish a boxing academy. He credits the focus and security of the boxing gym for his own trouble-free childhood, while many of his classmates ended up in jail or dead.
While boxing gyms offer classes for children, there is no dedicated academy for aspiring fighters or for those with a keen interest to get better at the sport from a young age.
Haye aspired to be a champion from the age of 10, and said he surrounded himself with like-minded people who trained and ate healthily.
“Without realising, by being at the academy, I was educating myself as a youngster, so I want to do something like this for the youngsters here as there’s nothing like this around,” he said.
The boxer already spends much of his time in the UAE and plans to stay for the long term as part of his 10-year strategy.
As to whether he will fight again this year or retire, he is uncertain. He is recovering from a shoulder injury that caused him to cancel his February 8 fight against Tyson Fury.
“I can’t say yes or no but I’m looking to have the healthiest year of my life,” he said.