Tony Bellew has described as “criminal” the sacrifices David Haye’s trainer Ismael Salas has been forced into to prepare his fighter for Saturday’s rematch against him.
That the respected Cuban had already committed to working with Haye for the first time for a night that could prove the last of the heavyweight’s career meant he had to abandon his role in perhaps the most significant fight of the year.
WBC lightweight champion Jorge Linares was until recently trained by Salas and will next week at New York’s Madison Square Garden defend his title against Vasyl Lomachenko, regarded as the world’s finest fighter.
While he hopes to take the Ukrainian’s unofficial title, Lomachenko fights to become a world champion at a fourth different weight, and on a night that is the biggest of both of their careers.
Venezuela’s Linares has secured his finest performances and victories since his career was revived upon working with Salas, but he has been preparing for next week’s date from Las Vegas without the trainer who knows him best.
Saturday’s rematch was postponed from December when Haye injured his biceps, and then rescheduled for May before Linares-Lomachenko was confirmed for a period when Salas was already committed to London, forcing the successful pair to separate.
“He’s a world-class coach, Ismael Salas,” Bellew told Press Association Sport. “Fantastic. I’ve got all the respect in the world for him.
“It’s an absolute liberty that he was forced to leave his long-time student, in Jorge Linares, to train David Haye. That was criminal; it was terrible that, it was wrong. But that’s not my place – what can I do about that?
“I feel for Jorge Linares; brilliant fighter going into the fight of his life against Vasyl Lomachenko, and he loses his trainer, because David Haye demands he should stay with him. It’s wrong.”
Salas became Haye’s third full-time trainer, following Shane McGuigan and Adam Booth, after he split with McGuigan in the aftermath of last March’s unexpected defeat by Bellew.
Asked if he felt he owed the Cuban the level of performance that would justify the time spent with him over Linares, Haye, at 37 two years older than Bellew, responded: “Yeah, for sure. He hasn’t come over here for the weather.
“He’s come over here; he’s got a job to do; he believes in me, believes I can do it, and has been here working with me day and night to make sure that I’m tip-top.
“There’s no weak areas, and I feel fantastic, strong, fast and as good as I’ve felt for 10 years. If I can transfer that feeling into the fight, you’ve got yourselves a very explosive, dangerous heavyweight.”