By Paul Mason (@koboxingsets)
The Curious Case of Haye v Bellew
On Friday of last week, the “grudge match” casual boxing fans had anticipated was announced.
Although I will probably be one of the thousands purchasing the Sky Sports Box Office spectacle, I can’t hide my disappointment that David Haye v Tony Bellew has been confirmed for the 02 Arena, London on Saturday March 4th 2017.
The grudge only seems to have been built over David Haye’s last two fights, namely against two extremely poor opponents. In July 2012, following a 5th round knockout win over Dereck Chisora, in what was billed as another grudge match, Haye was forced into retirement after several injury postponements of bouts with Manuel Charr and Tyson Fury. Shoulder reconstruction surgery followed.
Haye returned in January 2016 and his fight at the 02 was much hyped and short lived. His opponent, the inexplicably WBA top 15 ranked Mark De Mori, didn’t make it out of the first round. Fans accepted this as a comeback fight, however, Haye’s next opponent, Arnold Gjergjaj four months later was even more farcical. The little known Swiss was floored 30 seconds into the contest, and seemed hurt by everything Haye connected with. He was dispatched a round later.
Bellew won the WBC Cruiserweight title a week later, and promptly called Haye out, but only if he couldn’t lure Denis Lebedev into a unification contest first. He referred to Haye as the “Bermondsey B**ch” and dismissed his last 2 opponents as “doormen”. A few Twitter barbs followed, but the call for the contest only intensified when Bellew made his first defence of the title against Haye’s friend, BJ Flores in Liverpool. Immediately following the knockout, Bellew launched himself out of the ring and tried to get to Haye, who was doing punditry for Sky Sports (fittingly) Bellew was a man possessed, Referring to Haye as ‘Spongebob‘, Bellew carried on the verbal assault in the post-fight interview, swearing profusely and taunting Haye, stating he has been “conning the British public” since he announced his comeback. This was then backed up with the now what seems to be obligatory classic story of how Haye was badly hurt by Bellew in sparring.
And so only a month after the war of words, Eddie Hearn has seemingly worked his magic, and arranged Haye v Bellew. The fans seemed to have lapped it up, but I am left wondering, what does either man gain from a win over the other, if anything at all.
For Haye, time is not on his side. He is 35 and approaching the end of his career, and after all, he has been telling anyone that will listen that his destiny is to win another world title. Rumors were rife that he had managed to cash in on the current WBA Heavyweight Title debacle by agreeing to fight Shannon Briggs for the championship. Ironically, Briggs has been chasing Haye since his comeback, presumably for the same reason Bellew is, money. To fight Bellew would be a distinct move in a sideways direction as the fight would carry no ranking prospects at all for Haye. The only thing that Haye stands to gain is a good purse, and another grudge match won following his destruction of Chisora on that Summer night at Upton Park in 2012. A loss would leave his career in ruins, and with presumably nowhere to go.
Bellew on the other hand, is the man with at least something to gain. It was three years ago to the day on November 30th that Bellew unsuccessfully challenged for the WBC Light Heavyweight title. He was stopped by current ruler Adonis Stevenson at the end of 6 rounds. An immediate move to the Cruiserweight division followed, where Bellews priorities lay in securing a rematch at the higher weight with old adversary Nathan Cleverly. Cleverly had outpointed Bellew by majority decision in 2011, and Bellew had and still has genuine needle with the Welshman. When they did eventually meet in Liverpool in November 2014, Bellew gained revenge in a painfully slow and laborious fight, which did little to enhance the Sky Sports Box Office product. After two more routine wins and a European title win, Bellew was given a shot at the WBC Cruiserweight title, against the dangerous Ilunga Makubu, at the home of his beloved Everton, Goodison Park. Bellew survived a nightmare first round knockdown, to knock Makubu out in three rounds in a shoot out. The routine defence against Flores followed, and the rest is now history.
For me, to jump up two weight divisions in less than three years is a massive ask for Bellew. Granted Haye moved from Cruiser to Heavyweight and then dethroned Nikolai Valuev to win a version of the World Championship in 2008, but that leap is not as big as the one Bellew is undertaking. Win or lose Bellew is the only one to gain, as if he wins, endless possibilities open up for him over the two divisions. Lose, and he will go back to still being the WBC champion.
As a hardcore fan, Haye should be manoeuvring for a world title shot, and Bellew should be establishing himself further as a World Champion, but it seems that this is a fight that financially both can’t refuse.
I cant see the fight going past halfway, and even though I am a fan of Bellew, Haye’s power at the weight should be too much. There is ten weeks to go until fight night, so don’t be surprised that there isnt a postponement or cancellation along the way. The real winner in this though is Sky and the boxers themselves.
As this is a guest article we would like every reader to please leave feedback for the article in the comment box below. Thanks in advance. #TWBW