Haye Haye, My My (into the Comeback)
By G.E. Simons
David Haye’s return to competitive boxing continues on 4th March with a ‘Heavyweight Feature Attraction’ against the WBC Cruiserweight world champion Tony Bellew, which will be broadcast live from London’s O2 Arena via SKY Box Office in the UK.
Haye informally retired from boxing back in November 2013 following a second withdrawal from planned fights with Tyson Fury due to a serious shoulder problem which required surgery.
In the same November, Tony Bellew suffered his second career defeat at the heavy hands of the defending Light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, before a successful and still undefeated reinvention at Cruiserweight.
Mixing in solid company at the new weight Bellew has excelled with good wins over Valery Brudov, a score settler with Nathan Cleverly and Mateusz Masternak, followed by a fairy-tale knockout victory over the feared Ilunga Makabu to claim the WBC word title.
Less than a month after Bellew’s unlikely ascension to the very top of the Cruiserweight division, David Haye announced his own return to the ring, with a new trainer in Shane McGuigan and a new opponent in the shape of Croatia-based Aussie, Mark de Mori.
A quick knockout of De Mori in January 2016 was followed by a slightly more time consuming KO of second comeback opponent and Swiss import Arnold Gjergjaj who fulfilled the roll of victim with the accuracy for which Switzerland is famed.
So, from an athletic point-of-view the coming together of Haye and Bellew in 2017 has no more credibility or relevance than Conor McGregor buying Gucci silks on Rodeo Drive.
SKY is of course doing it’s best to fan the flames of the dissent that the two protagonists seem to have manufactured from somewhere, as copywriters feverishly mine the ‘war of words’, ‘bitter battle’ and ‘fierce rivalry’ seams of content provision, but with the PPV priced at £16.95 a pop they need to.
The real problem with this fight is that it means absolutely nothing from a boxing point of view and really doesn’t move the needle of either fighter’s career no matter what the outcome.
If Haye wins by KO early, late or in the middle, so what. He’s a Heavyweight with freakish power against a Cruiserweight who was knocked out at Light-heavyweight.
Of course if Haye wins, the comeback and the paydays continue and in a still splintered division he may also reclaim a portion of the Heavyweight title spoils.
If Bellew wins via any outcome, so what. Haye hasn’t had a meaningful fight since his loss to Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg nearly six years ago, is 36 years old and has a bad shoulder.
Of course if Bellew wins, his legacy swells and he returns to Cruiserweight with a Royal Flush of options or stays amongst the big boys for the well earned payday of his life.
And there you have it, the needle that this fight does move is a fiscal one. It’s really a Catchweight, PPV opportunity for one of boxing’s recent underachievers in David Haye and one of boxing’s recent overachievers in Tony Bellew to cash in now, and for the winner especially, afterwards as well.
No one involved has shied away from the financial motivation of this scrap either and why should they.
Interestingly, at the official launch press conference back in November Haye lost his cool somewhat as he ranted in clear frustration about promotional hierarchy with Eddie Hearn who asserted, “You are working with Matchroom because you need the dough. You need the dough that’s why you’re here.”
“You’re fighting me because you’re skint.” Bellew later told Haye as the former WBA heavyweight champion continued to wind himself up and threaten his opponent with stretchers and hospital beds in-between mentions of $2m offers to Lucas Brown and Shannon Briggs copping out.
Later and looking out at them, Bellew told the Press, “This idiot has blown the lot and this is the only reason he’s fighting me. He could have fought for the Heavyweight championship of the world but he chose the money. He chose the money because he’s skint. David is broke.”
This is one Pay-per-View event that will split the fans of boxing and the fans of fighting straight down the middle, with the latter group much more likely to reach for their PIN numbers and credit cards on this occasion.
Both fighters have peaked athletically, both are British Hall of Fame worthy, both have earned the right to meet and share a PPV pot whipped up by talk of a bitter rivalry, and so it really is up to if you want to help fill the pot that these two good old warriors are going to share.