Tony Bellew on nemesis Haye returning to boxing and why he fears ‘organised chaos’ of YouTube bouts

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. 

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‘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

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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. 

Bellew has no plans to take part in the increasingly popular trend of exhibition fights 

He is hugely critical of bouts involving YouTubers like Logan Paul (left), labelling them as ‘organised chaos’ and feels one day the sport will get a bad image if someone is badly hurt

‘Professional boxing is under certain rules and guidelines with huge protections for athletes, these guys are clowns making a few quid. 

‘When someone does get hurt, I don’t want it to be a backlash on boxing. This is organised chaos.’  

The prospect of getting hurt was part of the reason Bellew himself called it a day. He is a man of principle and means what he says – he promised his wife he would retire after taking a nasty blow in his loss to Usyk, and has no plans to reverse that decision, even though he feels physically like he could carry on. 

The former cruiserweight world champion didn’t get his Hollywood ending in boxing, but he still might get one – in front of the cameras – after his successful turn as ‘Pretty Ricky Conlan’ in the blockbuster film Creed.

‘If I had it my way I’d have carried on fighting, but I’ve got a family and other things I’ve got to commit to and my life,’ he adds. ‘I gave boxing 20 years of my life. It came first before my kids and my wife, which is embarrassing to say. I wish I could carry on, I know I could physically, but I’m a man of my word and I won’t be coming back. 

Bellew himself suffered a devastating knockout against Oleksandr Usysk in his final fight

‘I’m very busy at the moment. I’m inundated with offers at the moment, including another movie. I’ve had an offer to be in a movie with aliens. 

‘I enjoy doing it [acting] I’m not sure how far I could go. I was informed I was very good by producers. It’s something to look at. At first I thought this is hard work, but it is something I would pursue later on.’ 

Now 38 and spending most of his time as a pundit for DAZN, Bellew – who features in new boxing game Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions – is intent on spending as much time with his kids as possible, saying he doesn’t have time to take up a career as a coach. 

You’ll hear Bellew screaming at his closest boxer friends on big fight nights and barking instructions at them, but he insists all he wants to do is pass on his know-how in the ring. 

The life-long Everton fan has no interest in coaching either – even if he’s often heard screaming instructions to his boxer friends in the ring

He has already taken a Hollywood turn after starring in 2015 blockbuster Creed – alongside Sylvester Stallone (centre) and Michael B Jordan (right)

Bellew says he enjoyed his spell in acting and would be interested in pursuing a career

‘My time is spent playing with my kids, I’ve got my gig with DAZN. I don’t need to be in the gym coaching boxers. Every time a fighter is in the gym, guess who’s with them? Their coach, and that’s a big, big commitment. It’s not for me. 

‘I like passing knowledge onto the fighters where I can, but I want to be chilling out with my kids and spending time with them.’

Bellew is a big fan of gaming and will sink hours into playing FIFA and Call of Duty with his children – even though he is fiercely competitive and cannot stand the idea of losing to them. 

But while most parents are wary of letting their kids spend too much time on consoles, he has found valuable lessons to be taught to one of his game-obsessed kids, who is also hoping to make it as a young goalkeeper for Everton, the club Bellew has supported all of his life.

Bellew now wants to spend as much time with his family as possible – and is hoping to use his children’s passion for gaming to teach them life lessons

‘I can’t let my kids win anything,’ says Bellew. ‘I have to whoop their backsides on FIFA, I have to smoke them on COD. I’m now at the unforgivable stage where my eldest boy is now better than me. It’s very embarrassing, as soon as he starts whooping me consistently, I’ve got to walk away from him. 

‘I keep explaining to my kids, you can’t get good at something without putting the time in. My little boy plays Fortnite and I want him to play more football. He’s at Everton Football Club as a goalkeeper with the Under-9s and he’s got to work on his feet. I said to him: “When you first started playing Fortnite, how good were you?” 

‘He says “I was terrible dad”, well how good are you now? He’s in the top five because he’s put the work in. Do the same for football and you’ll be the best with your feet. That works to him because I’ve put it across in simple terms.’  

 

Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is available September 10th on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4 and Xbox. For more information please visit www.game.co.uk/en/games/big-rumble-boxing/ 

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