This Saturday, on March 4th at the O2 Arena in London, former heavyweight and cruiserweight king David Haye will take on bitter domestic rival Tony Bellew in a hotly contested bout in the British capital. What’s sure to have fired up many observers leading up to the bout is the obvious animosity and bad blood between the two camps with both men threatening to send each other into early retirement, leading to a heavy security presence at the weigh-in earlier this week.
While this isn’t a Rocky movie, the pair’s war of words has ignited flashbacks of Bellew’s Rocky movie alter-ego ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan and his sustained verbal jabs at on-screen contender Adonis Creed. This fight has all the same hallmarks as its famous Hollywood counter-part and come March 4th, the boxing world will be in for another mouth-watering clash of styles where a lot of questions will be answered regarding both men.
Leading up to this fight, many boxing writers and pundits have wondered if former champ Haye, now 36 and with arguably no competitive fights under his belt in almost five years, still has what it takes to achieve the highest honors in the sport. The opponent facing him on Saturday night should go some way to alleviating those fears providing he manages to come through with a solid win at the O2 Arena.
Tony Bellew is a cruiserweight champ arguably in his prime. With solid, consecutive knockout wins against legitimate opposition in BJ Flores and Ilunga Makabu, Bellew has shown that even though he is fighting Haye at higher weight than what he is currently used to, his power is likely to transfer well to the new weight limit.
This fight in essence, is a battle of Haye’s legitimacy at heavyweight rather than Bellew’s. While this may seem somewhat counter-intuitive to some considering Haye is the one who is a former heavyweight champ and not Bellew, who has never even fought at the weight before, it is Haye’s absence from the ring that leaves the bigger question marks heading into this fight.
Haye’s recent return to the ring in January of last year, after an extended hiatus, left many questions still unanswered about his current boxing ability and also his chances of being competitive in what many boxing observers consider bigger super fights coming down the road for the ‘Hayemaker’. His two most recent challengers in De Mori and Gjergjaj, despite a posting an impressive combined record of 59-1-2 between both of them, were effectively little more than cannon fodder for David Haye’s concussive right hand, getting summarily dispatched in rounds one and two respectively.
As a fighter possessing extreme athletic ability and quickness throughout his career, these opponents failed to provide a stern enough litmus test to gauge whether or not Haye is ‘back’ and still retains his gifts of athletic prowess. What does not remain a mystery however is whether or not Haye still possesses his one punch knock-out power as he looked ferocious in both recent encounters.
But the litmus test that many observers were looking for in Haye’s last two fights will no doubt come this Saturday night in the form of a fighter in Bellew who has enjoyed immense success in the ring in recent years. Since Bellew’s sixth round TKO to light-heavyweight kingpin Adonis Stevenson back in November 2013, Bellew has rattled off eight straight wins with six of them coming via knockout.
This in-the-ring success has seen Bellew become WBC World cruiserweight champion in that time, and while Bellew insists that this fight will mark a one and done appearance at heavyweight, his name is nevertheless being attached to some big names in the heavyweight division.
Haye will provide a necessary benchmark for that ambition and if Bellew should prevail on Saturday night, the bright lights and glamor of boxing’s top division may provide too much temptation for a fighter who has generally fought under the radar for the majority of his career.
Whether it is Haye’s devastating one punch knockout power or Bellew’s fierce tenacity and dogged determination that carries the day, one thing is for sure, on Saturday night two of boxing’s most outspoken characters will square off in what is sure to be an electric atmosphere at London’s O2 Arena with boxing fans across the world likely in for a treat.