The last time David Haye announced his return to boxing, Tony Bellew vowed to swiftly put it to an end, and he was a man of his word. Three years after their two fiery grudge matches – which saw the Hayemaker stopped on both occasions – he is stepping back into the ropes.
Haye will take on Joe Fournier on Saturday night in a glitzy exhibition line-up headlined by Evander Holyfield and UFC star Vitor Belfort, and his old enemy Bellew is not even slightly surprised to see the former heavyweight world champion moving back into the spotlight – but he’s not hugely impressed either.
‘David is David,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘Where there is a penny you’ll find David, where there’s a pound you’ll find David, where there’s millions you’ll get loads of Davids.
‘He’ll just keep coming up when they want to give him the air time and good luck to him. He’s probably going to render Joe Fournier unconscious with an upper cut.
‘I think he’s mad, it’s stupid what he’s doing but I do understand it. It is huge money to be involved. He’s still going to be a very powerful individual, if he hits you with that punch, it’s night night.’
Tony Bellew (left) feels David Haye’s (right) return to boxing is ‘mad’ and stupid’ ahead of his comeback fight against Joe Fournier on Sunday
Bellew said he understands the financial allure that attracted his old rival – who he stopped twice during two fiery encounters in 2017 and 2018
To say there was bad blood between the pair during their two clashes in 2017 and 2018 would be putting it lightly. The two were involved in fiery exchanges during press conferences, with Haye famously promising to put his rival in hospital ahead of their first clash at the O2 Arena.
Bellew, who hung up his gloves in 2018 after one final fight against Oleksandr Usyk – which saw him suffer a devastating knockout – says he has built bridges with Haye, but will never forget some of his cutting verbal blows.
‘A lot of things get said, you can never truly forgive the things he said – about putting me in a coma and my family visiting me in hospital. To me that was his final card to wind me up and it never worked, it failed miserably, it looks worse on him than me. But we get on these days, that wasn’t the case for a few years but time is a healer.’
So, would Bellew follow the lead of Haye and get back in the ring to face a retired boxer for a lucrative price?
The 38-year-old Liverpudlian effectively ended Haye’s second comeback with a fifth-round stoppage at the O2 Arena in 2018
They have since buried the hatchet and are on good terms, but Bellew (right) will never forget some of the stinging remarks said by Haye (centre) during their heated press conferences
‘It’s not in the plan, not at all,’ he says. ‘Everyone’s got a price, but I don’t want a call, I don’t want to take part in it. If someone’s going to throw something stupid at me I’ll take a look at it. But I’m very happy doing what I’m doing [as a pundit] with DAZN.’
Exhibition fights are becoming more and more popular in the game after YouTubers Jake and Logan Paul became sensations by taking on celebrities and former martial arts stars for eye-watering sums of money.
Bellew has made no secret of his dislike for amateurs getting in the ring and feels that one day they will give boxing a bad image if an inexperienced contender suffers a serious injury, and he doubled down on that view – calling fights involving YouTubers ‘organised chaos’ and hitting out at ‘clowns making a few quid’.
‘I think it’s going to be all good until someone gets hurts and then it’s going to come really bad on professional boxing,’ he said.
‘People are making money so it will continue, but stop attaching this to professional boxing, this is just chaos in an exhibition.