It’s been 14 months since David Haye lost to Tony Bellew back in March last year. One ruptured Achilles, one torn bicep and, two consequent surgeries later and the “Hayemaker” is finally ready to set the record straight, will it be Revenge for Haye, or Repeat for Bellew?
Last Time Around
Haye has cited his mentality as the main cause for defeat last time, saying he got carried away in anger, as Bellew was clearly able to get under his skin at will throughout the build-up to the first fight. There was no more defining example of this than when Haye threw a punch during a face off at a press conference held months before the two men fought.
And we all remember that infamous “Your mum” moment in the Liverpool press conference….
This was also partly untrue as a horrific injury in the sixth round (the aforementioned ruptured Achilles) was unequivocally the biggest factor in the fight, but Haye, now in a point in his career where mentioning injury as an excuse for defeat really is playing a record no boxing fan can bear to hear again. Even if in this case it’s entirely justified.
His frustration with Bellew bled into the ring too, as in the early part of the first fight, Haye came in hot. Swinging wild hooks, he fought like he said he would, explicitly telling Bellew in the build-up that he would be leaving the bout in an ambulance.
Bellew, a good trash talker and somewhat underrated tactician, had shrewdly masterminded for this. Bellew had great success in the early rounds of the bout by being a good matador to Haye’s bull. Haye was repeatedly loading up to throw wild left hooks, and Bellew, always being on the back foot, always looking to counter over Hayes telegraphed shots, scored easily on Haye.
However, a change came in the fourth round as Haye came off his stool a man no longer looking to hospitalise his opponent with one shot. Haye began working a snappy body jab which Bellew, preoccupied with making Haye miss and countering, simply ate without response most of the time. Hayes low lead hand lends naturally to his technique, as he can simply raise it and dig it into his opponent's stomach often before they’ve realised a punch is coming.
-The image is taken from https://www.thestatszone.com/tony-bellew-vs-david-haye-ii
(Note the huge uptick in jabs thrown after his success with the body jab in round 4)
This change turned the whole tide of the fight until Haye’s fateful Achilles injury effectively ended the contest. Much had been made of Haye’s conditioning in the build-up and Bellew had made it known he believed Haye was going to tire. But this body jab began to slow Bellew down in a matter of minutes, with Carl Froch even commenting towards the end of the fourth that Bellew seemed to be the man who was tiring, not Haye.
Bellew was no longer finding the openings for any of his counters and had to begin looking for ways of creating his own offence on Haye. Haye, on the other hand, was able to not only land the body jab almost at will but was also able to set up the damaging blows he’d been looking to land in the first few rounds off of this jab as a setup. And before long he landed a big combination at the mid-point of the fourth.
The fifth round followed the fourth, Haye was still able to land the body jab without reply. And Bellew was forced to become more proactive with his offence, and in the trading exchanges that came here, it seemed Haye was beginning to take the advantage, opening a cut on Bellew's face near the end of the round.
Now, the fight went on for six more rounds beyond this point, but all worthwhile analysis of the fight breaks down the minute Hayes' foot fell off in the middle of the sixth. Forced to go for broke, he began recklessly swinging, and so did Bellew, both aiming to end the tie as soon as possible. One out of survival instinct, the other thriving on killer instinct.
With Bellew in such a clear advantage, and even despite Haye’s surprising mettle amidst this catastrophe, it was only a matter of time before Bellew claimed victory, and so in came the towel of mercy from Haye’s corner in the 11th round.
It is interesting to consider what approach Bellew will take in the rematch. Bellew’s game-plan to stay out of danger for the initial part of the fight until Haye tired was, in the end, what won him the fight, even if it took a freak injury rather than a conditioning factor. But the matador type approach he had success with in the early rounds seemed to run thin once Haye began measuring his shots and applying a little more science and patience.
And on conditioning, the body attack Haye put on Bellew after the fourth seemed to take the zip out of the debut heavyweight. In the build-up, to this fight, Bellew has mentioned he’s coming in lighter than before, and this presumably in response to this. If he plans on outlasting Haye and making him gas, he first needs to address the issues that led him to slow down first out of the two in the first fight. Bellew will need to find a more proactive approach in wearing Haye out, as it seems less likely Haye will blow his proverbial wad trying to ruin Bellew with power shots this time.
The next likely adjustment to come from Bellew is how he intends to land with success on Haye if Haye doesn’t take the ultra-aggressive approach in the early rounds. The stats show the table above showed that Bellew threw and landed with much lower frequency than Haye in the first five rounds, and Bellew’s most significant strikes were landed in the first round of those before Haye calmed down. Bellew will simply need to find a better way of landing meaningful shots that aren’t counters to wild swings.
Haye himself has remarked that the biggest difference he needs to make was on his mental approach to the bout. Seemingly humbled by the defeat, he has talked a lot less about hospitalising Bellew this time around and, for whatever it is worth come fight night, seems to be taking Bellew more seriously as a challenge.
Bellew has still managed to wind Haye up in the build-up to the rematch (the Scousers wit is simply much sharper than Hayes brand of braggadocios snubs) but quite clearly not with the same efficacy as he did in the first bout. And, if you take much stock into these things, Hayes overall attitude does seem visibly more positive towards the fight.
Tactically, it seems logical for Haye to open this fight where he started in the fourth round, if Bellew and his coach Dave Coldwell haven’t prepared a way for Bellew to nullify Hayes body jab then the fight come unstuck for the Liverpudlian quite soon. It’ll be interesting to see what changes new coach Ismael Salas will have implemented into Haye’s game-plan on fight night, and this could be a fight fought between adjustments made in the corners by the coaches as much as it could be by the fighters in the ring.
Interestingly, in this weeks press conference, Haye coyly let tell he may be coming with a tactical approach entirely different than the last time. Something of an offhand remark, but adorned with the kind of smile that covers a secret desperately wanting to be told, this perhaps could be telling of his game-plan time around. Or you know, could just be pre-fight gibberish.
It almost seems bewildering to have to consider this enough of a credible talking point to actually have to spend words on discussing, but one cannot rule out the possibility of Haye having yet another freak injury in this contest. It’s one of those topics that seems tongue in cheek on its face, but given that the use of a (perhaps traitorous) handrail to protect himself from the titanic threat of some, by all accounts, perfectly normal set of stairs was enough for Hayes' bicep to tear itself apart, you really shouldn’t have a ton of confidence in ruling this out altogether. Hopefully, Haye is coming into this fight as recovered as he is claiming, but between his muddy record in the past, and his necessity to have this fight happen, to avoid taking the backlash of cancelling yet another fight, you can never be too sure.
All things said and done, however, a fight is a good fight when there’s is questions that need answering, and there certainly is no shortage of that in this fight...