The buildup to the the biggest sporting event of the weekend, the heavyweight battle between David Haye and Tony Bellew, has been fractious to say the least. The verbal sparring between the two pugilists reached its unsavoury crescendo yesterday, with Haye ominously telling his opponent to “enjoy his final few days.” Boxing often makes headlines for the wrong reasons, but if you subtract the insults, pushes and threats, this match has all the ingredients to be a terrific spectacle.
Tickets for the fight, which takes place at the 20,000 capacity O2 Arena on Saturday night, sold out in 55 minutes in November, but finally the time for talking is over. It’s impossible to tell how much of this insidious behaviour is real and how much is acted out to ramp up the hype and sell more pay-pay-views, but there does seem a genuine edge this match. Apart from making a living by punching people in the face, the two fighters have very little in common.
Bellew, the downtrodden underdog from Liverpool may not have the silky hand-skills and quickness of South-Londoner Haye, but he has an unquestionable desire and bravery. Bellew’s training camp consisted of 10 mile runs along the freezing River Mersey, while Haye jetted over to Miami to pump iron in the sunshine. Bellew slammed Haye’s preparation, saying “I’ve trained for a fight, he’s trained for a 6-pack and muscles.” There’s little denying image seems far more important to the ‘pretty-boy’ Southerner than to the tough, hard-nosed Northerner.
Both men are relatively small in stature – for heavyweight boxers at least. Haye weighed in at just over 16 stone on Friday, a full eleven pounds heavier than his opponent. That is a significant margin, especially considering Haye’s punching power is unquestionably more potent than Bellew’s. But there are certainly question marks surrounding Haye’s fitness and speed of movement. Since his second comeback, Haye has gained just under six minutes of competitive fighting under his belt.
Bellew will look to extend the fight into the later rounds and examine the 36-year-old’s stamina. Haye will undoubtedly want to finish the fight early with chopping right hands and his trademark ‘Hayemaker’ punch, but it would be unwise for Bellew to stand and trade punches. There’s only one winner in that scenario, and it’s not the Liverpudlian. Before his heavyweight unification fight with Wladimir Klitschko in 2011, Haye said of the long time kingpin of the division “He’s a fraud and I’m good at exposing frauds,” before blaming his own pitiful performance on a sore toe.
Haye made a strange confession about the Klitschko fight recently when he confusingly explained: “Everybody has limits, I’m different now.” There should be no excuses come midnight on Saturday, but the wise money is on Haye ending the fight in the first three rounds.
Over in the rather warmer climes of the Caribbean, England’s cricket tour of the West Indies continues with the second ODI on Sunday. Eoin Morgan’s side are currently batting in the first ODI in the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua, but they’ve lost both Jason Roy and Joe Root cheaply. Both have been dismissed by Trinidadian fast bowler Shannon Gabriel who looks a real threat.
In the Premier League, Chelsea face a huge London derby with West Ham on Monday night. On Wednesday, Tuttosport claimed that manager Antonio Conte has agreed to a £51 million contract offer from Inter, with the Serie A club’s Chinese owners willing to pay him £12.75m per season over five years. Roman Abramovich will be loathed to lose the man who looks set to deliver the title in his first year at Chelsea, so expect a counter offer soon.
Fulham and QPR are both in Championship action on Saturday afternoon. The Cottagers host Preston as they look to continue their good form, while Rangers welcome Cardiff City to Loftus Road. Neil Warnock, who managed QPR between 2010 and 2012, as well as a spell as caretaker boss in 2015, brings his Cardiff side to W12 for what is sure to be a highly-charged Championship clash.