David Haye’s Biggest Battle On Saturday Will Be Against His Own Body, Not Tony Bellew
David Haye will enter the O2 arena on Saturday evening and Evertonian Tony Bellew will be standing across from him as the bell rings, but the blows coming his way won’t be the most daunting battle the former world heavyweight champion needs to deal with.
Haye is injury-prone, there are no two ways about it. His last two high-profile fights have been marred by injuries, one was rescheduled, and the other disintegrated into the abyss. A shoulder injury robbed fans of a fight against Tyson Fury in 2013, Haye subsequently underwent major surgery which kept him out of the ring for almost four years.
Many thought his career was over and given his impressive stints as a pundit on Sky Sports, it looked as though he’d found his new calling. A cruiserweight at heart, there was a new breed of heavyweights that looked too big and strong for him to compete with at this stage of his career.
One thing we’ve learned about Haye during his boxing career, he’s incredibly stubborn and so a return to the ring shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise – though the motive which drove such a decision was the cause of much speculation.
After a few dull matches on his return in 2016, an odd rivalry was brewing domestically which led to a crescendo at Goodison Park as Bellew leapt over the ring following an impressive knockout win to demand that match.
It wasn’t a fight many fans were demanding but when it became a distinct possibility, the collective response was something like ‘Haye/Bellew? Erm, okay!’.
As the excitement built for the heavyweight clash in March 2017, Haye’s injury record was hardly discussed as the experts unanimously agreed that he was the overwhelming heavyweight. It was Bellew’s first step-up to face a legitimate heavyweight, and it was only the underdog on the night who stressed that Haye was a quitter.
Fight week approached and reports spread like wildfire that the fight was off, Haye had suffered an injury. The report marinated for a while before being denied by most parties, but Bellew remained steadfast in his belief that he was heading into combat against a physically wounded man.
And thus, in the sixth round of that fight, the man from south London felt his achilles snap in half and despite attempts to carry on, his team made the right decision in the 11th round and threw in the towel.
Haye attempted to control the narrative and claim that the injury was a freak accident, but any careful observer would’ve noticed that he was dragging the right leg from the beginning of the fight and never felt comfortable applying any pressure to it.
A rematch was quickly mooted given the nature of the defeat which was scheduled for December 2017, an exciting prospect as many hoped a healthy Haye would provide fans with a much better spectacle.
Both fighters were wrapping up their camps and gearing up for the press tour, but then Bellew’s promoter Eddie Hearn receives a phone call from Haye. He asks to meet up face-to-face to break the news we’d all heard whispers about – he’s injured himself again.
The fight was off but all parties were adamant that this wasn’t it and now here we are. Haye has sworn that he’s had a perfect training camp and is coming into this fight more leaner than he did over a year ago.
Haye is a wonderful fighter, one who’s managed to combine supreme boxing IQ with damaging blows. He’s a former world heavyweight champion who lost his title in an unlucky bout against Vladimir Klitschko. For a long time, the 37-year-old was alone in flying the flag for British boxing in the heavyweight division despite being a cruiserweight.
In any normal bout, Haye obliterates Bellew. Having said that, this isn’t the same Haye. Certainly not physically, and potentially not psychologically. Talk of financial troubles remain in the atmosphere and once he has to dig deep, will he think this is all worth it?