By Ian S Palmer
There’s a huge grudge match over at the O2 Arena in London, England this Saturday, March 4th as former World Heavyweight and Cruiserweight Champion David Haye will be taking on fellow Englishman and current WBC Cruiserweight Champion Tony Bellew in a 12-round heavyweight tilt. The fight can be seen on pay-per-view on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK. Haye’s last contest took place in May when he stopped Arnold Gjergjaj in the second round. Bellew last fought in October and stopped BJ Flores in the third round. There’s been a lot of nasty trash talk leading up to this contest with the British Boxing Board of Control investigating some of the worst comments made by Haye.
This is Haye’s third fight after a three-and-a-half-year absence and he’s now 36 years old. Haye decided to return to boxing to cash in on the sudden-popularity of British heavyweights such as Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua and he’s won his first two comeback bouts. He’s climbing into the ring with an impressive record of 28-2 along with 26 Kos. His first comeback fight in January of 2016 lasted just under a round when he blasted out 33-year-old Mark De Mori of Australia in 131 seconds in London and he then stopped Gjergjaj halfway through the second round a few month later.
Haye’s two career losses came against Wladimir Klitschko in a dull unanimous decision in 2011 and a fifth-round TKO to Carl Thompson back in 2004. With 26 Kos in 28 wins it’s obvious that Haye, who hails from London, possesses a lot of power in his punches and that’s verified by his current knockout ratio of 87 percent. Even though he started out as a cruiserweight, Haye has decent size for a heavyweight as he stands 6-feet-3-inches tall with a reach of 78 inches and he’s boxed 122 rounds since turning pro back in 2002.
Haye’s biggest wins have been against the likes of Jean Marc Mormeck, Monte Barrett, Enzo Maccarinelli, Nikolay Valuev, John Ruiz, Audley Harrison and Dereck Chisora. He fell short when he fought his one and only elite opponent in Klitschko, but blamed his mediocre performance on a foot injury. Haye prefers to stop his opponents, but has pretty good boxing skills if needed. On the downside, he isn’t that hard to find and hit in the ring. Haye’s chin isn’t bad, but he’s been stopped once and been rocked on several other occasions during his career.
The 34-year-old Bellew of Liverpool won the vacant WBC Cruiserweight crown with a third-round stoppage over Ilunga Makabu of the Congo last May and then defended it against Flores. Bellew had previously lost a pair of title shots in the light heavyweight division as he was stopped by WBC Champion Adonis Stevenson in six rounds in 2013 and Nathan Cleverly beat him by majority decision for the WBO crown in 2011. He’s also a former European and British champion who enters the ring with a record of 28-2-1 with 18 Kos.
Bellew moved up to the cruiserweight division after Stevenson stopped him in November of 2013. He’s beaten the likes of Flores, Makabu, Mateusz Masternak, Arturs Kulikauskis, Valery Brudov, Ivica Bacurin and Julio Cesar Dos Santos. The draw on his record came back in 2013 against Isaac Chilemba in the light heavyweight division. He’s also won decisions in rematches against Chilemba and Cleverly and also beat Edison Miranda by a ninth-round TKO in 2012.
Bellew turned pro in 2007 and has 200 rounds under his belt. He’s not an overly-powerful puncher and his current knockout ratio is 58 per cent. He also stands 6-feet-3-inches tall so is the same height as Haye, but his 74-inch reach means he has a four-inch disadvantage in wingspan. Bellew has good technical skills and likes to press the action, but his chin is also somewhat questionable after Stevenson stopped him a few years ago.
These two guys simply don’t like each other and are both looking for a knockout. Haye has been relatively inactive over the past few years and has taken on a couple of Grade C opponents in his comeback, but he still packs a heavy punch and is used to the heavyweight division. Bellew has a solid punch too, but this is his first outing at heavyweight and his chin appears to be arguably weaker than Haye’s. I’ll take Haye by a stoppage here, but he still needs to be wary of Bellew’s power and motivation.