A change is as good as a rest, or so the saying goes. David Haye has had plenty of both in recent times and it has made him hungry to retrieve his world championships.

Prior to his sensational return at The O2 last month, where he knocked out number 10 ranked heavyweight Mark de Mori inside two minutes, the former undisputed cruiserweight and WBA heavyweight world champion had not been in the ring for more than two years.

His seemingly forced retirement came at the end of a string of injuries – a broken toe held him back in his title loss to Wladimir Klitschko, cuts put paid to fights with Manuel Charr and Tyson Fury while major shoulder surgery appeared to be curtains.

But 27 months later, Haye is healed and ready to pursue his dream of becoming champion again with another bout against an as-yet-unnamed opponent at The O2 on May 21.

In the meantime, much has changed for Haye, who lives in Keston.

Gone is Bromley-based coach Adam Booth, who led him to the belts, and in is Vauxhall-based superstar trainer Shane McGuigan.

Speaking from his immaculate gym, Haye told us McGuigan’s methods are helping to keep him injury free.

He told us: “He’s very adaptable. He trains me completely differently to how he trains Carl Frampton and completely differently to how he trains George Groves. He doesn’t have one style. He moulds the style of the fighter to get the best out of them.”

He added: “In the past, I have had to take six months off between fights because I am that banged up from training camp.

“This time around we trained completely differently and I can feel the benefits.

“I’m not doing any kamikaze training now. I’m making sure everything is specific and safe.

“Before I do any type of training [we consider]: what is the training for? What are the benefits? What are the potential pitfalls?

“If the pitfalls are too high, we try to find something else that gets similar results in a safer way.”

For his last fight, Haye – who was always a light for a heavyweight – tipped the scales at 16st 3lb, his heaviest yet.

He said: “It wasn’t an accident. I was getting too lean before fights in the past. I believe that could have contributed to my injuries due to not having as much body fat.

“I’m eating the whole way up to the fight – the night before the fight, the day of the fight – to get nourishment in. It worked a treat, I feel great.

“I looked OK. I didn’t look as ripped as I did in the past but it’s not a body building competition, it’s a boxing match.

“It’s all about performance and I’m performing better than ever in the gym. As long as that translates to the fight, I’m happy.”

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Bulking up and packing on more muscle is all the more impressive considering Haye went vegan during his long lay-off.

As we spoke, he sipped away on a smoothie made with almond milk and vegan proteins made from quinoa, brown rice and yellow pea. His meticulous diet is controlled by nutritionist Aiden Goggins and prepared by Noyo Food.

Haye said: “I saw some documentaries about how cows and chickens and pigs are harvested and I looked into the benefits of a vegan diet and I heard a lot of athletes who have seen the benefit of it.

“I thought I would try it for myself. I wasn’t fighting at that time. It was worth trying it.

"Plus, I wanted to heal from my shoulder surgery and apparently that’s the best way for the body to heal. All the stuff is organic as well.”

Clearly, missing meat from his diet Haye needs to take in a lot of protein but believes the feeling of strength derived from eating meat was psychological.

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He said: “I remember years ago I would have a big juicy steak and feel like a caveman. Did I really? I felt bloated, to be honest.”

There are also other health benefits Haye has found through veganism.

He said: “I used to have terrible eczema on my legs but since I changed my diet, the eczema is completely gone and my skin has got clearer. I get nowhere near as many spots as I used to.”

While much as changed in David Haye’s world, the sport is also in a different place. The Klitschkos’ iron grip on the titles has been broken with Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Charles Martin wearing the belts and prospects such as Anthony Joshua are making a name for themselves.

That leaves the 35-year-old Haye with no easy route back but he is determined to get there.

He said: “I really want to unify the titles. Once I’ve done that I can retire. At long last. I was supposed to retire when I was 30.”

For Haye, the path to a title shot is not straightforward and the former champ knows he only has a finite period.

He said: “I’ve got two or three years to get it done. If I can’t do it in two or three years, it ain’t happening.

The next step is his fight on May 21 on home turf at The O2, a venue he easily sold out in January.

He said: “It is the best arena in the world. It really is amazing.

“It is the perfect arena right there on my doorstep. I grew up in Bermondsey, which is only just down the road.

“It’s 30 minutes from Keston.

“When I walked out at the O2 the other night, it really did let me know what I’m all about and let me know I’m back and the fans are with me too.”

David Haye fights at The O2 on May 21. Go to axs.com for tickets or hayemaker.com for more about David Haye.