Tony Bellew admits his loathing of David Haye will make it easier for the Liverpool boxer to shock the former world heavyweight champion at the O2 Arena. The world cruiserweight champion will go into uncharted waters against Haye with extra motivation to beat the former I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! contestant who is currently in the midst of his third coming in boxing.
The build-up to the all-British clash has been toxic to say the least, with insults exchanged on social media and during pre-fight media events, stoking the fire ahead of an explosive clash in London. Haye has been heavily criticised for his conduct prior to the bout, having abused individuals from Bellew's Merseyside home town and directed several physical threats towards the 34-year-old.
Bellew is the underdog as he prepares to make his heavyweight debut, with Haye a natural at this weight class. But Bellew insists he has extra motivation to cause a surprise having grown tired of Haye's continual barbs.
"I'd rather fight someone who I absolutely detest rather than someone who I think is a nice fella. I don't like fighting my mates to be honest," he told reporters. "I don't need to fight people who I like, like I say I admire him as an athlete, I've followed his career since I was a kid...I'd rather fight people who I don't like."
During a pre-fight press event in Bellew's home town on Monday [27 February] Haye labelled the baying crowd as "f*****g r*****s", a comment he claimed provoked racist abuse from the crowd. He later withdrew the accusation but the incident was the latest in a long line of unsavoury episodes involving the ex-WBA heavyweight champion.
But Bellew says Haye's part-time boxing career means his conduct has not overly damaged the sport, instead believing his profile to have been damaged beyond repair. "This guy says things that are just disgusting and he is a disgrace to British boxing," he added. "He takes things a step too far. I'm not here to hurt anyone, I'm here to win.
"I think he's shamed himself, he isn't boxing. It would be different if it was Floyd Mayweather saying that because he's the face of boxing. We're talking about a man who has just retired and is as well know for his stints in the jungle as in the boxing ring.
"This guy is a celebrity boxer, he comes back to the sport when he is skint and runs off when he's made enough. That is the way he is. He's said disgraceful things and that's a disgrace on his part. Don't label him to boxing. I don't think I've gone as far to say some of the things he's said.
"It was disgusting to play that card. I am as much black as I am white. I am a proud Scouser," he said.