David Haye and Tony Bellew are poised to lock horns at the O2 Arena on Saturday evening (4 February) for their much-anticipated heavyweight bout. The 34-year-old Evertonian Bellew has stepped up a weight division to face the Hayemaker, who has caused an awful lot of controversy with his recent comments.
Where to watch
Haye vs Bellew is available to watch live on Sky Sports Box Office on Saturday night. Coverage of the undercard, which sees the likes of Paulie Malignaggi and Lee Selby take to the ring, begins at 6pm with the main event scheduled for approximately 10:30pm. Those times are subject to change, however.
They know each other from years gone by, but there is certainly no love lost between these two. Haye has gone on record to say that it was not his wish to fight Bellew, but his recent comments – some of them rather gratuitous – seem to suggest that the Bermondsey boxer holds a burning desire to get in the ring with the Bomber.
Haye is the heavy favourite for the heavyweight bout at the O2, but Bellew, who unlike his bitter foe has shied away from the spotlight during his preparation, seems to be living rent-free in the Hayemaker's mind.
Bellew has impressed during his recent bouts – his third-round knockout over Ilunga Makabu at Goodison Park in May to win the vacant WBC cruiserweight title the undoubted highlight – but he has had to step up to the heavyweight division in order to meet Haye in the ring, something he has wanted to do for a number of years.
The Hayemaker was one of the world's best fighters in his pomp and a world-class cruiserweight. He also stepped up to the heavyweight division with relative comfort But the 36-year-old, who advised Bellew to 'enjoy his last days' in a recent press conference, has only set foot in the ring twice in the last four-and-a-half years against Mark de Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj, who, with all due respect, did not prove to be stern opposition.
History does not favour Bellew, and Haye will presumably be able to cope with his power, unlike most cruiserweights he has faced. But the Everton-mad Creed star has got under the skin of his opponent, and if he finds a way to nullify Haye's supreme speed and power in Greenwich on Saturday, an upset could well be on the cards.
What they have said
Speaking exclusively to IBTimes UK, Haye said in January: "I not only believe I'm gonna win, I believe this is going to be one of the most brutal beatings inside a British boxing ring and it will call into question why this fight actually happened."
"People will look at this and think how irresponsible were we all to get behind a fight that's this one-sided. It's only after the event that people look and think actually 'who called for this?'. I never called him out, I never once said I want to fight this guy, he's the one who started screaming and shouting, his promoters contacted me. I'm like if you want it, I'll give it to you, but it's not going to be nice. If you really want it, we can do it."
Bellew: "We're talking about a man who's been retired, just known for his stints in the jungle." he told The Guardian. "This guy is a celebrity boxer. He comes back to the sport when he's skint and then he runs off again when he's made enough. For the first time in my life, I'm facing someone who needs a pound note more than me."
He added a telling note of his own to conclude: "Understand this: when I walk in that ring on Saturday night, the first thing I'm fighting for is my life. Nothing else. No money. It's my life. And, with him saying things like, 'I'm going to end it', it's a sad, sad time for boxing. A muzzle should be put on him, to be honest."
Prediction – Haye in five rounds
Haye may not be the brute force he once was, but he should still prove to be too quick and powerful for Bellew, a rookie in the heavyweight division. 'The Bomber' is heavily reliant on his power at cruiserweight level, and while Haye is a natural cruiserweight himself he has dealt with bigger boxers than Bellew in his career.
The Scouser will not want to be caught by Haye early on and will certainly not go all guns blazing in the early rounds, but the Hayemaker should be able to work him out and land a few crushing blows during the midway point of the bout.
Odds [via Betfair]
Haye win: 1/5
Bellew win: 4/1