Tony Bellew v David Haye: Their rivalry in their own words

By Nate WilliamsBBC Sport
Tony Bellew and David Haye once sparred together but now share a public rivalry
Tony Bellew and David Haye once sparred together but now share a public rivalry
David Haye v Tony Bellew
Venue: O2 Arena, London Date: Saturday, 4 March Coverage: Full commentary BBC Radio 5 live, live text service on BBC Sport website

This is no new boxing formula.

Disagreements, insults, a flurry of hype on social media - and then a lucrative fight.

But how far should the bad blood go? And can pay-per-view boxing exist without it?

Before Tony Bellew and David Haye meet at London's O2 Arena on Saturday, the British fighters speak to BBC Sport to address controversial comments, glamorous Miami training camps and whether animosity works for boxing fans.

Hospital threat - a step too far?

Bellew called Haye out publicly after beating BJ Flores at cruiserweight in October
Tony Bellew called David Haye out publicly after beating BJ Flores at cruiserweight in October

The pair have sparred together but it seemed any bond they shared disappeared when Bellew, 34, called his rival "Spongebob Squarepants" after beating BJ Flores in October. However, that insult, a dig at Haye's hairstyle that Bellew admits referred to the wrong character (he meant Sideshow Bob), was a relatively gentle precursor to the nastiness that has followed.

Bellew: "He was saying that he's going to leave me in hospital and I'm going to leave the ring on a stretcher. I thought that was absolutely disgusting. All I care about is going home to provide for my three kids and my missus - that's all I need to make me happy.

"We have to remember there are fighters lying in hospital at the moment in comas because of boxing. You've had the whole thing with Nick Blackwell, the tragic death of Mike Towell, and it's becoming more frequent of late, which is worrying for my sport. This clown David Haye thinks it's a joke."

Haye: "When a boxer gets knocked unconscious in a ring, it's standard procedure to take that boxer to hospital for a brain scan to make sure there is no serious damage. I've knocked out 26 of my 28 opponents. They've all been taken to hospital.

"I told him the truth by saying he will go the same way. I don't want anything serious to happen - but that is a fact."

Does pre-fight bad blood 'work'?

The first news conference of fight week drew a big crowd at a Liverpool hotel
The fight has captured the interest of fans, with the first news conference of fight week drawing a big crowd

Haye is no stranger to confrontation. The 36-year-old from London brawled with Dereck Chisora at a news conference in 2012. This time around he threw a punch at Bellew at a media gathering in November. Liverpool's Bellew, meanwhile, built a reputation as one of British boxing's biggest talkers from early in his career. His camp have claimed Haye needs this fight for the money.

Haye: "People who aren't boxing fans are interested in this fight because it makes so much noise when you have two men trading insults and shoving each other.

"We broke ticket records at the O2 and it's a non-title fight with me beating the hell out of some guy. So the fans will always be there to see those types of fights."

Bellew: "Nobody will pay good pay-per-view money to see two good guys shaking hands and saying how good the other one is. It's not a good thing though - it's a bad thing. But it sells and it works.

"Boxing should not be about all the talk beforehand but that's what gets people going. People want to see two men who really don't like each other, who have a bit of bad blood and history, and they want to see a good scrap."

Why call out Haye?

David Haye swings a punch at Tony Bellew
Haye threw a left hand at Bellew after the latter shoved him during a head-to-head in November

Bellew steps up to heavyweight after becoming the WBC cruiserweight champion - a title he still holds. Haye, a former WBA heavyweight champion, will fight for the third time since returning from over three years out, knowing a win could see him return to a position where he could compete for a title.

Bellew: "David Haye is making a mockery of boxing. The last two fights he had were exhibitions - they weren't fights. He has been conning the public for a very long time and it has to stop because it's a joke.

"I'm a prizefighter and the prize in this fight is massive. So what was I supposed to do? Fight my mandatory WBC title challenger for absolute buttons or face David Haye for 10 times the pot? It's a no-brainer. I beat this clown and I will become a pay-per-view star on my own."

Haye: "He tried to attack me when he jumped out of the ring. But when I tell him home truths it really upsets him. He's going to get a reality check."

Can training on a yacht work?

David Haye's social media posts have led to some questioning how hard he has trained for the contest
David Haye's social media posts have led to some questioning how hard he has trained

Haye's Instagram page shows a series of posts in the Miami sunshine during his preparation camp, with trainer Shane McGuigan sometimes in attendance. Bellew, who works under Dave Coldwell, prefers a more traditional camp.

Haye: "I wanted to show fans a glimpse of a better training style - because how much fun can you have in London? It's always raining and it's very depressing. You can't go on beaches, you can't ride jet skis or play basketball on a yacht.

"It was the best training camp I've ever had."

Bellew: "Haye is a pretender. He keeps trying to portray this fake celebrity lifestyle on social media to keep his name out there. I don't do that.

"I use social media to talk to fans because they help pay my wages. Without the fans, I wouldn't be where I am in boxing."

Battle for reputation - who has more to lose?

Haye hopes to return to the top of the heavyweight division, while Bellew could move back to cruiserweight
Haye hopes to return to the top of the heavyweight division, while Bellew could move back to cruiserweight

Both men are heavy hitters and have losses on their records. On paper, defeat for Bellew would still leave him in a position to return to cruiserweight as a champion, albeit one carrying a stinging setback. Haye's two wins since returning to the sport have not lasted long enough to convince some punters of his ability to contest a tough fight after shoulder surgery in 2013.

Bellew: "David Haye is a quality fighter. He was brilliant at cruiserweight but that was 10 years ago.

"I've had 13 hard fights over three and a half years when this clown has been sunbathing in Miami or Dubai or wherever he likes to hide. How does he think I'm going to be an easy touch?"

Haye: "He has seen my success and he will never be considered as good a cruiserweight as I was. He won a vacant title in his own stadium; I beat the long-reigning champion Jean Marc Mormeck on his home turf and knocked him out to take all the titles.

"I've done things he'll never be able to do and he doesn't like the fact I draw a bigger crowd from the masses."

Who will have the last word in the ring?

Head-to-head record shows Tony Bellew has fought 200 rounds to David Haye's 122
Bellew has fought 13 times since Haye stepped away from the sport in 2013

When the punches fly from two 6ft 3in fighters, any telling blow could change the trajectory of the other man's career. Both have two defeats on their record, with one loss apiece by knockout - but who will have been beaten for a third time by the end of Saturday?

Haye: "Bellew got knocked out by Adonis Stevenson at light-heavyweight. I weigh 50 pounds heavier than that guy so how does he think he's not getting knocked out against me?

"This will be a proper destruction job. This is the last you will hear of Tony Bellew."

Bellew: "Make no mistake, I'm labelled as the underdog and everyone's saying what David Haye will do to me - but they don't know what I can do to him.

"If he loses this fight, he's finished and he's got nowhere to go."


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