By Terence Dooley
Former WBC cruiserweight titlist Tony Bellew (29-2-1, 19 KOs) will walk to the ring for his rematch with David Haye (28-3, 26 KOs) at London's O2 Arena on Saturday night convinced that only a victory will erase the pain and frustration he has felt since beating the Londoner via a 11th-round TKO last March to gatecrash the heavyweight division. The joy of that big win was quickly tempered by heartache due to the death of his brother-in-law Ashley Roberts, the brother of his long-term partner Rachel, who died aged 32 after a tragic accident in Cancun, Mexico last August.
The father of two fell to his death from a hotel balcony just a few months prior to the initial date of Bellew's proposed rematch with Haye. It was a tragic event that Bellew has struggled to come to terms with, but he had pledged to honour the original December 17 rematch date only for Haye to withdraw due to a bicep tear.
Now, though, the rematch is fast approaching and it is highly unlikely that it will be nixed again as Haye needs to get his career back on track after last year's setback. For his part, Bellew has struggled to come to terms with the loss of a family member, friend, and someone who followed him throughout his entire career.
The 35-year-old Liverpudilian did not need any further motivation going into this crucial fight, but he revealed that he has been punching through the pain of his loss and will not let Haye beat him.
“I am 100% ready for this fight,” he said when speaking to BoxingScene from his Sheffield training camp. “I've done everything I need to do. I feel good mentally, but it has been tough with everything that has been going on in my life—I get through it a day a time and will be right on May 5th. It has been horrible, horrible—easily the worst period of my life. You just have to keep moving, if you don't crack on with things you will just go insane. I'm doing what I need to do to make life work.”
He added: “I try to get home one day a week, I'm also home for the weekends, so it is not like I'm just constantly in Sheffield. Don't get me wrong, it is not ideal but it has to be done. I always work things out one way or another.”
There were constant fears that Haye would not be able to make the revised date due to the amount of injuries he has suffered in recent years. Bellew believes that his opponent has spent too much time partying between fights, living a playboy lifestyle and using boxing as a means to top up the coffers every once in a while. He argued that it has backfired on the 37-year-old, and has prevented him from making the most of his talent and athleticism.
“David is now in the position where if this rematch didn't go ahead his career is over,” he said. “Haye will be in the ring on the night for a fight that spells the end of his career anyway. I've always said that you can't play around with boxing, you can't just come in and out of it as you like—you have to live it from the beginning to the end. I'm sure that any fighter would agree. How many successful fighters make comebacks after two years out of the ring?
“You get a couple, like Ali and that, but I bet it doesn't stretch into double figures and many, many people have tried it. Look back through history, the record books don't favour fighters who come back after long periods of inactivity. The delay from the first fight hurts me, if anything, but I'll get through the first few rounds and then take over.”
In recent times Haye has appeared to treat both the sport and his opponents with disdain; he was very dismissive of Tyson Fury during the build-up to two fights that were spiked when Haye picked up injuries. Haye almost looked embarrassed to be part of the event only to end up watching from the sidelines as Fury and, later, Anthony Joshua went on to have the successful heavyweight careers that he should have enjoyed.
Fury moved on and, with his single standout win over Wladimir Klitschko to win the heavyweight world title, eclipsed everything his erstwhile would-be-opponent achieved throughout the length of his career. Despite being the man with all the gifts—both physically and in terms of his talent—Haye has flattered to deceive ever since that memorable win over Jean Marc Mormeck for the WBC and WBA cruiserweight titles in Paris over a decade ago. Sure, he won the WBA title by out-pointing Nikolay Valuev in November 2009 yet anodyne title defences over John Ruiz and Audley Harrison were followed by his insipid performance against and loss to Klitschko in 2011, as title runs go it stands among some of the worst the division has seen.
However, and despite too many fallow years spent either inactive or in the wilderness, "Hayemaker" still carries the air of a man who believes he is a star, rather than a fallen idol who will still have a long way to go to find redemption even if he manages to net a revenge win over Bellew.
Haye's history of injuries, inactivity and drift behooves the idea that he can once again compete at the top level. His inability to negotiate camps and, now, fights without breaking down does not bode well for him. Chances are that he will always be a “What could have been” man in the annals of British boxing history.
Still, Haye's ego will come to the fore once the first bell goes, and it is this sense of self-worth that has powered his greatest nights. Bellew believes that although the ego remains, the body is not the same and Haye will once again taste defeat before riding out into the sunset as the sun goes down for good on a staccato, frustrating career.
“David has always had that ego, it is what makes him the fighter he is and he wouldn't have got to where he got if he didn't think highly of himself,” he said. “David has been a brilliant fighter over the years, a great athlete, but all good things come to an end—and the end is coming for him.”
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