On Saturday night London’s O2 Arena will play host to one the most interesting heavyweight rematches in recent history as David Haye attempts to avenge his loss to ‘the Bomber’ Tony Bellew. When the two faced off in March of last year the Merseyside man stopped Haye in the 11th round after the former heavyweight world champion tore his Achilles tendon.
That result saw some pundits label Bellew a lucky man and write the result off as completely dependent on the injury. The reality though is that Tony Bellew deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the win, injury or no injury.
While David Haye is better established as a heavyweight he does not carry a notable natural size advantage over Bellew and while he may have been the more accurate of the two, the previous fight never saw Bellew truly shaken up or hurt. Equally Haye wasn’t the only man who bravely battled through an injury, as Bellew broke his right hand in the course of the fight.
The considerations weighing in the Londoner’s favour this time around are: his heavyweight experience, his speed, his slight reach advantage, and the fact that there is arguably much more riding on this fight for him than there is for his opponent. As a two weight world champion his pedigree is beyond doubt, but Haye hasn’t had a meaningful win since stopping Dereck Chisora in 2012.
Despite his stuttering recent career and previous loss to Bellew, Haye goes into the fight as an odds-on favourite at 1/2. Bellew is priced up at 7/4 and the draw is 33/1.*
The Bomber’s price isn’t quite as appealing as the 6/1 that some bookmakers offered before the original bout, but it may tempt some as he’s certainly not without a chance. While Bellew came up from cruiserweight specifically for the original fight he is likely now more used to carrying the extra weight. Equally his form and activity before taking on Haye saw him face much stiffer tests than the Londoner put himself through on the comeback trail: stopping BJ Flores and Ilunga Makabu in 2016 puts two big ticks on his record.
Bellew has a lower knockout percentage and his career has never reached the famous heights that Haye’s has, despite his tenure as Cruiserweight world champion. We know the Liverpool man carries power though and importantly he showed fans in the first fight that there was no weight mismatch and that he could handle Haye’s power. Also notable, if clichéd as an observation, is that Bellew has so much heart he’s impossible to write off. He scraped himself off the canvas to stop Ilunga Makabu in his dream fight at Goodison Park and has never been short of motivation.
While it seems cynical to list it as a crucial factor it’s also entirely possible that David Haye will re-injure himself during the fight. It’s an understatement to say he’s been injury prone in the last few years and Bellew has repeatedly levelled accusations that Haye’s body is “breaking down on him”. That proved to be the case last time and has to enter calculations given the recent and grievous injuries Haye has sustained to his Achilles and his biceps, and earlier even his toe.
The 2017 iteration of the Hayemaker seemed sluggish and flat footed in comparison to his much lauded heyday (pun very much intended) and he will likely have to recapture some of that speed if he’s to turn the tables on Bellew. The higher intensity that may be required will ask bigger questions of the London man’s injury prone body, but if the speedier Haye is delivered to the ring on Saturday night he will trouble Bellew.
Exchanges in the first fight have led many to criticise Bellew’s punch selection and accuracy. It took him a long time to dispatch a severely handicapped Haye after the Achilles tendon had snapped. That’s a subjective stance though and Bellew can be criticised for his miss-rate just as much as he can be praised for the fact that he remained patient and measured in making sure he got the win.
Even before the injury though Haye’s flat-footedness was a far cry from the heights he has reached in the sport though. He has admitted since that he didn’t take Bellew seriously enough and perhaps with that in mind he will attempt to revert to type. If he does so his speed and movement will doubtless be a challenge for Bellew. But how much of the old Hayemaker can be recaptured at 37 years old?
It’s almost impossible to make a solid prediction in a fight with so many unknown quantities. This bout seems to exist in a sort of form vacuum in many ways, as neither man has fought in the last two years excluding their fight with each other.
When it comes to Tony Bellew the boxing fan more or less knows what to expect. He’s tough, he’s gritty and he can box. He’s a real fighter’s fighter but he doesn’t have the slick polished methodology of Haye. Despite sometimes seeming inaccurate, or not looking the part physically, he so often finds a way to get the job done.
On Haye’s part he believes this is very much a fight he should win. If he can recapture some of that old spark it seems likely he could find a way, but that is a massive ‘if’. To reiterate a fact at the heart of the matter, that really can’t be stressed enough, Haye hasn’t had a meaningful win since 2012. The big question is still “how much quality remains?”
If Haye’s body doesn’t break down on him again his star quality will probably shine through but some form of injury is, statistically speaking, far from unlikely, and could shape the fight. With that in mind the tempting bet, in terms of value, may even be the Bellew stoppage currently priced around 10/3.
*All odds were correct at the time of writing, and George doesn’t lie. We’ll give good odds on that.