Lennox Lewis has warned David Haye that he could further tarnish his reputation if he comes out of retirement and rushes straight in to a fight with either of the Klitschko brothers.
Haye surrendered his WBA heavyweight title to WBO and IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko last summer with a highly disappointing points defeat which he partly blamed on a broken little toe.
The Bermondsey fighter hung up his gloves following the defeat but has since vowed to return to the ring - but only to fight Wladimir or his brother Vitali, who holds the WBC belt.
Haye is confident that he can beat either of the brothers, but Britain's previous heavyweight champion Lewis insists the 31-year-old should have two low-key build-up fights first before launching himself in to a contest against either of the Ukrainian brothers, who between them have dominated the division for the best part of a decade.
"David should come out of retirement," said Lewis, speaking at the Laureus Awards in London last night.
"He should come back, but he should not think about the Klitschkos right now.
"He should beat a couple of other people, so people actually think: 'yeah, you know, he can do it this time, he can beat a Klitschko'.
"There is a lot of money for him on the table and that is important for any fighter. All he has to do it is jump in there against one of the Klitschkos and take it, but he should have a couple of different fights first.
"If he beat a couple of other fighters first, he could build himself back up."
Haye's camp are keen on tying up a deal to fight 40-year-old Vitali in the summer, although the Londoner's trainer and manager Adam Booth admitted last month that negotiations have hit a frustrating impasse.
Instead of agreeing to fight Haye, Vitali has chosen to take on a contest against unfancied Londoner Dereck Chisora.
Chisora, who has lost his last two fights, is a massive underdog for the fight, which will take place in Munich on February 18.
Lewis was the last man to beat Vitali some nine years ago, but thinks 28-year-old Chisora could upset the odds by beating the Ukrainian in Germany later this month.
Lewis added: "Vitali is very good but Chisora has a chance. He is a heavyweight. All it takes is one punch on the chin to win.
"I always say if you walk into the ring, you have to get wet. If he (Klitschko) is in the fight, in the ring, and he gets punched, there is a chance that he might get hurt or knocked out. It will be an interesting fight."
Haye has accused the Klitschkos of making the heavyweight division boring during their dominance and Lewis seems to agree with his compatriot.
"You could say the division is in a poor state now," said Lewis, who lost just twice during a glittering 44-fight career that lasted 14 years.
"We are waiting for that new eruption of a great super star out there to really take up the pace of boxing and put it right back up there."