By Keith Idec
Tony Bellew’s stubborn critics claim he wouldn’t have stopped David Haye had the former heavyweight champion not suffered an Achilles’ injury earlier in their March 4 fight.
Haye himself isn’t so sure. The London native surprisingly admitted as part of an interview with Sky Sports on Wednesday that Bellew might’ve been able to knock him out seven months ago in London even if he hadn’t sustained that debilitating injury in the sixth round.
“Who knows?,” Haye said following a press conference to officially announce their December 17 rematch in London. “You never know. I could’ve gotten knocked out legitimately. I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t know. I don’t have alternate realities.
“All I do know is he won the fight, I lost the fight and I’d like the opportunity to do it again, to prove that the guy that turned up on March 4th is a very different person than the guy standing here before you and the guy that’s gonna get in the ring on December 17th at the O2 Arena, live on Sky Box Office. You’re gonna see the best version of myself.”
Haye has recovered from surgery and is training for their rematch. It’s not a fight Haye (28-3, 26 KOs) even considered would’ve become necessary before their first fight at O2 Arena.
“I lost the first fight, so it’s all about revenge for me, going in the ring and making sure that I come away with an emphatic victory,” Haye said. “Just a win isn’t enough. I really wanna make a statement in this fight. I believe I’m the best out there. So if that’s the case, I really need to do a number on Tony Bellew.
“He’s gonna be in great shape. He proved a lot of doubters [wrong] the first time around. But as I said before, he got away with robbing the bank. He won’t rob the bank twice. No one gets away with it two times.”
Though confident he’ll win their rematch, Haye has much more respect for Bellew (29-2-1, 19 KOs) than he did before they shared a ring March 4. Bellew, 34, fought at heavyweight for just the second time when he faced Haye, a fellow former cruiserweight champion who has been a heavyweight for nine years.
Liverpool’s Bellew was winning by the same score, 96-93, on all three scorecards when their scheduled 12-round fight was stopped in the 11th round. By then, Bellew had dropped Haye twice, once apiece in the sixth and 11th rounds.
“He beat me, so how can you not have respect for someone?,” Haye said. “However they beat you, he beat me. He found a way to win. I didn’t believe he could do that going into the fight. He proved to me that he can. He did it legitimately, so I’d like to have an opportunity to have a re-think about everything, and come back to the table a lot better.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.