Tony Bellew will go down in history as one of the greats of boxing should he defeat Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk this weekend.
That is the view of his old rival David Haye, who will be a very interested spectator ringside when the pair clash at the Manchester Arena on Saturday in a world cruiserweight title fight.
Undisputed champion Usyk is the favourite heading into the bout, but Haye insisted former WBC cruiserweight champion Bellew has a great shot at taking all four of the Ukrainian’s belts from him.
And former world heavyweight champion Haye should know – he was beaten twice by the Merseysider when the pair met, firstly in March 2017 and then earlier this year in May.
On both occasions, Haye – now retired from the sport – was stopped by Bellew and he is all too aware of the 35-year-old’s devastating punching power.
“Bellew’s got a massive ask against the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world in Usyk,” said Haye, who himself was once the unified cruiserweight world champion .
“He is an absolute specimen of a fighter, the Olympic champion, undefeated as a professional. He has won all the belts there is to win in the cruiserweight division.
“But Tony Bellew was the WBC champion – he relinquished that belt to move up to heavyweight to fight me.
“He beat me twice and now he’s going back down to challenge for his old belt and the other belts.
“I’ve tasted his leather and he really is the bomber. So if anyone can pull-off an upset, he can. He is a big underdog. He understands that, but he was the underdog going into both fights against me.
“He was the big underdog going into the fight against Ilunga Makabu when he won the WBC title and even his European title fight against Mateusz Masternak he was the big underdog in that.
“Fight after fight, he has proven the public wrong and here we go again.
“People underrate him again. They say, ‘Okay he beat him, but there’s always a reason why he beat these people’.
“But this time he is going up against a guy who is not over the hill, is not old – so this is his chance and if he can win this fight, he will go down in history as one of the best cruiserweights ever.”
Meanwhile, Haye was in the North West of England on Thursday to begin a new challenge – playing poker.
The 38-year-old took part in his first competition at the Grosvenor Casino, in Blackpool. Haye is hoping to take part in the Goliath Poker Tournament – one of the biggest tournaments outside of Las Vegas – next summer in Coventry.
In Blackpool, Haye was up against the general public and lasted only 13 minutes in his first buy-in, but did better on his second. He lasted two hours and was the chip leader at one point.