David Haye and Tony Bellew have signed up for a blockbuster British heavyweight clash in London next year, writes John Kelly…
Bermondsey-born Haye, 36, will face 33-year-old WBC cruiserweight title-holder Bellew at The O2 on March 4.
Haye has fought just twice since July 2012, winning both bouts against moderate opponents.
After defending his cruiserweight title in October, Bellew called out Haye, who was standing ring-side, and the two will now have the chance to settle their differences.
On Friday, former two-weight world champion Haye said: “The public demand for me to violently knock out Tony Bellew was simply too strong. The country is fed up of his constant yapping. Even in his home town of Liverpool I would be stopped in the street by people begging me to spectacularly send him into retirement.
“Bellew is completely delusional if he thinks he can beat me. He still thinks he’s on the set of (2015 movie) Creed and there will be some kind of Rocky-style happy ending. But come March 4 at The 02 in London I will bring reality crashing down on him.
“I’ve earned my credentials the hard way inside the ring, not on film sets. There will be no second takes, no stunt men taking the blows and no flashing lights on the red carpet. The only lights Bellew will see are those of the spotlights shining down on him when he wakes up from his nap on the canvas.”
Bellew, who won the cruiserweight title after getting up off the canvas to knock out Ilunga Makabu in May, said: “I’ve backed him into a corner, left him nowhere to go, and now I have what I want. I’m not under any illusions, I know exactly what I am going up against, it’s big risk, big reward.
“I cop him with my best punch, he’s going to sleep. He cops me with his best punch, more than likely I am going to sleep too. I know what I am up against but the big factor for me is, I’m a very active fighter, I’ve had no breaks and I’ve got very little wear and tear on me. If it comes down to a question of heart and determination I win hands down. If it comes down to one punch, it’s 50-50.
“He hasn’t been in a hard fight for over five years. The last time he had a gut check, he failed it. Going into this fight I 100 per cent know that he does not want it as much as me and he is not going to be as brave as me.
“Everyone knows I get off the floor and I fight until the finish. I know the minute it gets tough for David Haye he’s going to spew it. He thinks he can beat me up in one round with one hand. He’s in for a rude awakening, because if this fight gets hard, and I expect it to be the hardest night of my life, this clown expects a walk in the park and he’s in for a bad night.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn added: “This is just a huge, huge fight. One of the best heavyweights in the world against the best cruiserweight in the world. An explosion of concussive punchers riddled with bad blood and desperate to score a knockout victory. The build-up will be electric as will fight