By: Ste Rowen
By the time Tony Bellew and David Haye share the ring for a second time, 427 days will have passed since their first meeting. The encounter that many viewed as a mismatch, turned into one of the upsets of the year as Liverpudlian, Bellew, dropped an injured Haye en route to an 11th round stoppage that saw Haye through the ropes, as well as his corner throwing in the towel. Few had predicted a Tony Bellew win, though many caveated their prediction with, ‘as long as Haye’s body holds up.’
Photo Credit: Eddie Hearn Twitter Account
It didn’t. Haye was dominant in the opening rounds, but Bellew’s perhaps, underrated defensive abilities were on show as, even before the injury occurred, Tony was making David miss a number of wide, heavy shots.
In the 6th round Haye’s Achilles tendon ruptured, and his game plan switched in a heartbeat from a ‘search & destroy’ mission, to survival at all costs. Bellew took to the centre of the ring and began to dominate until the penultimate round when, eventually he landed a left hook, which was enough to fire Haye through the ropes and signal the end of a crazy turn of events in London.
The former unified cruiserweight champion did live to fight another day, this Saturday to be exact, even if the fight has had to be postponed from its original December date, but there’s not the same confidence that was there before the last bout. No statements such as, ‘I’ve never had a fight where I really wanted to cave someone’s skull in like this.’
No, this time the Hayemaker, 28-3 (26KOs) is taking a more sombre approach to his words ahead of Saturday night. Speaking at Monday’s press conference with a very much, pro Tony Bellew crowd in Liverpool, Haye said,
‘Last time round I was a bit angry, this time round not so much. I didn’t believe Tony Bellew had what it took to beat me. On my worst night I was terribly wrong. He raised his game way more than any of his prior fights and I expect exactly the same thing again on Saturday night.’
‘I’m gonna do what I tried to do last time and failed miserably; and you guys are, unfortunately gonna see the end of Tony Bellew. My speed, timing is back. It’s all back.’
His opponent however was rightfully lapping it up in his hometown press conference.
‘I’m gonna do exactly what I done in the first fight. You’re going to miss and you’re going to miss by miles…On Saturday mate, it comes to an end. For the first time in your whole career, you are actually fighting for your career.’
‘David isn’t back to win world titles, David’s back to rob the bank and he’s trying to do it with as little risk as possible…The mistake he made is he picked this fat, little, scouse, cruiser with a mouth to try and make that against, ‘cos he thought it would be an easy fight.’
‘Saturday night guys, it’s time to go to war and your career my son, ends in a beat.’
Saturday night’s venue will once again be London’s O2 arena, but this time round, it feels a lot harder to assess and predict what eventually goes down when the first bell sounds. If he’s smart Haye’s tactics will reflect his more thoughtful approach to the rematch so far. Last time round it was clear he wanted the knockout, and he wanted it early. There was no doubt, as confirmed by Haye himself, that the Bermondsey native, massively underestimated Bellew’s resilience to take a punch, as well as avoid the pressure the former WBA heavyweight champion would put the ‘Bomber’ under early on in the bout.
By Saturday it will be just under 2 years since Bellew’s greatest night, when he knocked out Ilunga Makabu at Goodison Park, to win the WBC cruiserweight title. Since then, though only fighting twice, he’s kept the hype train rolling, and wants to keep steaming down the track after this weekend’s bout, eyeing up future battles with Tyson Fury, or a supposedly retired, Andre Ward.
For Haye though, his greatest night, depending on what you view as more significant, was either over 10 years ago when he KO’d Jean Marc Mormeck to win the WBA & WBC cruiserweight belts, or his 2009 victory for the WBA heavyweight belt, defeating man mountain, Nikolay Valuev. In fact, it’s been almost 6 years since his last significant victory, when he made lightwork of Dereck Chisora in 5 rounds.
The famous saying goes, ‘Speed kills’. Well in boxing, so does inactivity. By normal standards, Tony Bellew, 29-2-1 (19KOs) is an inactive boxer, when you compare him to Haye though, he’s virtually Sugar Ray Robinson fighting once a month.
This time round, rather than thought’s of ‘I wonder if Haye’s body will hold up.’, there feels like an inevitability of, ‘When will it fail?’. When it comes to Tony Bellew though, fight fans have just come to expect the unexpected.