By Sam Constantinou Coulter
With an intense build-up that has at times gone too far, David Haye and Tony Bellew have generated huge interest in their grudge match tonight at London’s 02 Arena.
Aged 36 from Bermondsey, London David ‘Haymaker’ Haye is a former heavyweight and unified cruiserweight world champion with a professional recorded standing at 28-2 with 26 wins by way of knockout.
At his best Haye is a lightning quick, explosive fighter with huge knockout power in his punches who poses a serious risk to any man he steps in the ring with. This is, however, an assessment of Haye in years gone by that no one can truly be sure still applies following several years absence from the sport.
Haye spent some three and half years out of the ring after defeating Dereck Chisora in 2012 having pulled out of fights with the likes of Manuel Charr and twice with Tyson Fury. Haye had to undergo major shoulder surgery and was advised to retire from the sport.
Despite such advice, Haye made his return to the sport last year against the rather poor opposition in Mark De Mori and Arnold Gjergaj. Whilst Haye is a fantastic addition to a reinvigorated heavyweight scene, fans had felt let down by Haye’s level of opposition in which he wasn’t even made to break a sweat.
Having quickly dispatched of the likes of De Mori and Gjergaj in quick fashion Haye set his sights on a higher level of an opponent with the likes of Shannon Briggs, Anthony Joshua and Lucas Browne mentioned.
The fight that no-one saw coming was against Tony Bellew. Aged 34 from Liverpool, Tony ‘Bomber’ Bellew is the current WBC cruiserweight world champion with a professional record of 28-2-1 with 18 wins by way of knockout.
Bellew is an unpredictable fighter who can at times box well to a game plan but then the very next fight will come in and look for all out war. He is an emotional character who is often involved in heated words with his opponents but underneath the bravado is a humble family man.
Having challenged for world titles twice at light heavyweight unsuccessfully Bellew took the decision to move up to cruiserweight in 2014. Bellew’s struggles to make light-heavyweight are well documented and looking at him now it is a wonder he was ever able to make the weight.
Having stopped challenger BJ Flores in his latest outing Bellew turned his attentions to Haye at ringside kicking advertising boards at the former champions before trying to confront him out of the ring.
In the post-fight press conference, Bellew made his intentions to fight Haye very clear and since then the hype and anticipation has built quickly.
There has been a series of insult ridden press conferences between the pair since the fight was announced that have at times gone too far. Haye’s talk of ending Bellew’s career and leaving him severely injured leave a sour taste in the mouth given the tragedies suffered to boxers in the past couple of years.
Whilst such talk is unsavoury it does serve to generate headlines for the fight which in turn builds anticipation and PPV buys. This fight has gained the interest of the highly lucrative casual boxing market who only watch a few fights a year. The heated exchanges have caught the imagination of the casual boxing fan and will mean good viewing ratings.
In terms of breaking down the fight itself on face value, it appears a one-sided mismatch. Haye is a ferocious puncher with incredible speed and a chiselled physique. Bellew is a good puncher but one who is vulnerable himself and is naturally a smaller man with the less obvious set of boxing talents.
The main question surrounding this fight is what Haye has left in tank? If Haye is the fighter he was five years ago then in all reality this fight won’t last very long. The athletic, powerful style of Haye seems completely wrong for Bellew.
It is however by no means a certainty that Haye is the same fighter he was given the long absence from the ring and the amount of time it has been since he was involved in a competitive fight. During that time Bellew has been involved in a series of tough, highly competitive fights and has become a world champion.
Bellew has proved the doubters wrong on a number of occasions in the past few years and is a man not to be underestimated. He is as determined and mentally tough as a fighter can be and has shown the ability to climb off the canvas and claim the win.
If Haye isn’t quite what he was and Bellew is able to take the fight into the second half then perhaps things will begin to turn in his favour. Haye is a quick starter who looks to end a fight in the opening rounds and can fade down the stretch.
Many doubt that Bellew will be able to force Haye into the later rounds though with his chances being completely written off with Haye himself labelling the fight as completely non-competitive.
Bellew has showcased knockout punch power since operating at cruiserweight and Haye’s chin isn’t rated as his best asset. Some believe that if Bellew catches Haye he could trouble him and claim the stoppage.
Whilst Bellew is a world class fighter he is facing a dangerous man at a weight he has never boxed at before and a man whose style seems all wrong for him. This would appear a recipe for defeat and one that should vindicate all of Haye’s talk.
In all likelihood, this fight will be won by David Haye by knockout within the first four rounds with his power and speed proving too much for Bellew but this is still an intriguing match-up given the question marks surrounding Haye.