by Cliff Rold
No one was making toe jokes when it was over.
Three fights into his comeback, David Haye found himself in an unexpected war. It exacted a toll on both men. Tony Bellew broke his hand and it wasn’t the worst peril of the night. In the sixth round, Haye suffered a ruptured Achilles and was dropped.
He kept fighting anyways.
Round after round, the one legged man in an ass kicking contest took the worst of it until finally in the eleventh the towel came in to signify he could take no more. It was dramatic stuff from, and for, both men. Haye proved a reserve of guts unlike any he’d shown before. Bellew beat the odds, snaring the biggest win of his career off the silver screen.
Now, they’ll do it again, both men returning the ring for the first time since they squared off in March 2017. Expect the O2 Arena to be rocking as it airs live in the US on the AWE network. There are no titles on the line, and neither man is consensus top ten heavyweight right now, but that doesn’t mean there are no stakes. Ignore the talk about whether either man will retire.
This rivalry has the potential to produce a lucrative rubber match or a big money showdown with either Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder.
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Previous Titles: WBC cruiserweight (2016-17, 1 defense)
Weight: 210 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom
Record: 29-2-1,19 KO
Press Rankings: Unrated
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-2, 2 KO, 1 KOBY
Last Five Opponents: 131-33-6 (.788)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Nathan Cleverly L12, SD12; Adonis Stevenson TKO by 6; David Haye TKO 11
Previous Titles: Lineal/Ring/WBC/WBA cruiserweight (2007-08, 1 defense); WBO cruiserweight (2008); WBA heavyweight (2009-11, 2 defenses)
Weight: 220 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: London, United Kingdom
Record: 28-3, 26 KO, 2 KOBY
Press Rankings: Unrated
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-1, 3 KO
Last Five Opponents: 157-9-3 (.938)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Carl Thompson TKO by 5; Giacobbe Fragomeni TKO9; Jean Marc Mormeck TKO7; Enzo Maccarinelli TKO2; Nikolay Valuev MD 12; John Ruiz TKO9; Wladimir Klitschko L12; Tony Bellew TKO by 11
The Case for Bellew: Both men showed up lighter than they did the first time by around four pounds. For Bellew, who is a little chunky no matter what weight he’s at, a few pounds can only help. He had some solid moments even before Haye was injured last time and was able to take Haye’s early power well. Bellew didn’t fight Haye scared, though he was cautious, and it helped. An injury to Haye postponed the rematch, yet another in a career full of them. That should be good for Bellew mentally entering the rematch. He can tell himself the older man has a fragility to exploit if this turns into another protracted battle. Bellew has to expect to go rounds. His power wasn’t enough to finish a one-legged Haye easily and he’ll need an accumulation of punishment to do the trick again. Before the injury last time, Bellew’s punch output was slowing and Haye had a strong fifth round. Bellew has to be offensive enough early to make the statement to Haye that the last time wasn’t just about an injury.
The Case for Haye: Haye, if he’s healthy, should be fighting like his career depends on it because that’s the truth. His strength has always been physical talent more than precise technique. His speed and power allowed him to move up from cruiserweight, give up weight in the ring, and beat the big men he faced outside Klitschko prior to the long layoff between 2012 and 2016. Haye still has enough name to insure that a big win would make him a lucrative foe for either of the two big current titlists, especially as Joshua and Wilder dance through negotiations and try to marinate their superfight into a retirement income guarantee. Haye has to fight like everything after round five last time was a product of injury, believe in his power, work the body smart like he was doing last time, and remind Bellew how dangerous he can be. Haye still has the eraser in this rivalry.
The Pick: Bellew-Haye I was a big, fun part of the heavyweight buzz that kicked into overdrive last year. The rematch lands while the buzz is still raging and both men have something to fight for here. A title shot may not be immediate but the winner is going to be in line for one sooner than later, especially if it’s the marketable Haye. Bellew was fighting well the first time but it’s hard to shake the feeling that his fortunes turned up as Haye’s body let him down. Haye isn’t who he was a decade ago but one has to assume he stays healthy in the ring today. If he does, eventually a two-legged Haye gets to Bellew and breaks him down with power. The pick is Haye with the revenge stoppage in another good fight.
Additional Weekend Pick:
Middleweight: Gennady Golovkin KO Vanes Martirosyan
Rold Picks 2018: 13-6
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]