May 4, 2018
May 4, 2018
Tony Bellew

Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

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TONY BELLEW flexes his fingers. A lump of tissue moves up and down beneath the skin along the back of his hand. The 35-year-old has had his share of wars and wounds. It takes a toll, a life fighting. But those hands have a few more battles left in them.

“There’s the bone that moves there. You can see it,” he says.

Something changes in him when that hand closes into fist. He is a father, a husband and, as we all saw at the weigh in today, an ordinary man. He is not a thick-muscled ‘power athlete’. Now however his children are away, from home and a screen showing Sky Sports Box Office. He won’t speak to his wife until the fight with David Haye is done, win or lose at the O2. When his hands make a fist, he’s something else too.

Thoughts of his family remain with him. “This,” the interminable press conferences, the weigh in, the television cameras, the crowds, “is just a circus,” he says.

“My greatest achievement,” Tony Bellew continued, “is a home. I come from a single home. At 10 years old my dad was gone. At 12 years old my dad’s in jail. So I’m a success, no matter what happens in my life, I’m a success. David could flatten me in 20 seconds. I don’t give a s***.”

But he warned darkly, “He’s not going to. Like I said before, when the gloves go on, I want to cause havoc. I want to cause mayhem. And when I say mayhem I mean the worst mayhem you can see. Something happens to me and I flick a switch and I just want to do damage. I swear when I get him on Saturday he’s going to pay for every word. I’ll smash him. I’m not going to stop. He’s just finished. He has no idea what’s coming Saturday. The frightening part about it, I know what I’m capable of.”

He’s proven it to himself in this training camp. “I’ve been brilliant in sparring,” Bellew said. “Without sounding big headed I could have rendered every single sparring partner unconscious if I chose to. I’ve been that sharp and that vicious.”

There is an edge of fear, or at least an awareness of the danger, when he thinks of the Haye fight. “The first thing that goes as you get slightly older is your speed and your timing and your awareness. They’re the first things that leave. The last thing to leave is your power,” Bellew said. “That’s why he will always remain an elite level fighter. He is the singular biggest punching heavyweight in the world. [Deontay] Wilder just swings. The reason he does damage is just you don’t see them coming.”

Haye seems imposing. At today’s weigh in the 37-year-old unveiled a body that appeared in magnificent condition. But Bellew is looking beyond that. “There’s a difference between an athlete and a fighter, in my opinion,” the Liverpudlian said. “I’m really a student when it comes to boxing and I understand how the body works. He will always be a great athlete [but] you can’t defy age. Time waits for no man. I’m sure you’re very much cleverer now than when you were 30 but physically you can’t do what you could. It’s no different for him.”

Tony Bellew

Haye might have the greater power, the better track record. But Bellew does not care. “I will not give this fella an opportunity. I will take him out and it’s going to be horrible. That’s the switch that’s going to get flipped and that’s not nice. I just wish this f****** anger and rage would go,” he says.

“But it won’t.”