David Haye vs Tony Bellew
Record: 28-2 (26 KO) ... Streak: W3 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’3" / 78" ... Age: 36
Thoughts: David Haye is a strange fighter to try and pinpoint. He’s talented — speed, power, good skills, hell of an athlete. He’s great at selling a fight. But he’s hard to take seriously, because he hasn’t had a serious fight in five years.
Last year, Haye returned from a three and a half year retirement to beat Mark de Mori in 2:11, then Arnold Gjergjaj halfway into the second round. Both de Mori and Gjergjaj were hopelessly overmatched in fights I remember mostly for being comical con jobs, convincing the public that Haye’s return was meaningful when in reality he was just running sub-sparring exhibitions for lots of money at the O2 Arena.
This is a challenge, though. For all the advantages Haye has on paper — he’s a little naturally bigger, he’s quicker, etc. — he hasn’t fought a credible opponent in about half a decade. The last time he did, it was Dereck Chisora, in another grudge match. Haye has been so inactive this decade that one of his last five wins came over John Ruiz. JOHN RUIZ! Two of his last five victories came over men who are now retired (Ruiz and Audley Harrison).
But Haye is a talent. Something of an enigma, but a talent. Whatever happens in this fight, whether it’s a quick Haye win, a loss, or some kind of ridiculous debacle, it won’t be any huge surprise.
Record: 28-2-1 (18 KO) ... Streak: W8 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’3" / 74" ... Age: 34
Thoughts: There was a time when Tony Bellew was a light heavyweight also-ran, a fringe contender at best. He got a couple of title shots, and came up short against Nathan Cleverly, and well short against Adonis Stevenson.
As a cruiserweight, he’s 8-0 and the WBC champion, stopping Junior Makabu in the third round last May, which was a fantastic win at home in Liverpool, at Goodison Park. That was perhaps the most special win Bellew will ever have, and he could have some good wins going forward and that wouldn’t change. To win your first world title at home in a football stadium is pretty outstanding.
This fight, at heavyweight, is a grudge match, pure and simple. It’s for money and pride, maybe in reverse order for Bellew, probably not reverse order for Haye. And he’s taking a real risk at a time when his career is hot, too. Sure, he could lose spectacularly and still hold his title and all, but it would hurt his momentum. And he wants to win. Beating David Haye would be huge for his name value. He’d get offers at heavyweight, even if he doesn’t want them.
Matchup Grade: B. We all know how much I love a good grudge match, but this is a weird fight to grade. It should have action and be fun while it lasts, but how much does it really mean? Bellew has stated he’s not planning to stay at heavyweight, so this is a one-off for him either way. The most important thing here is on Haye’s side: he has to win to keep chasing that one big money fight. But this should be fun, no matter how you figure its importance.