Five years ago England’s Tony Bellew was a legitimate contender at light heavyweight. But his performances in his biggest fights had left him a solid notch below the division’s elite. In October 2011 he lost by majority decision to Nathan Cleverly. He took a shellacking from Adonis Stevenson in November 2013.
But in the five years since he has kept his career hot by moving up in weight. In 2016 he hammered a pair of solid cruiserweight contenders in BJ Flores and Ilunga Makabu, stopping them both in Round 3. He won a rematch with Cleverly by split decision. The 6’3″ Bellew certainly looks like a more solid fighter carrying more weight on his lanky frame.
In March 2017 Bellew picked up the biggest win of his career, this time moving to heavyweight to battle David Haye. In a rough, brutal fight Bellew broke his hand and Haye ruptured his Achilles tendon. Bellew was up 96-93 on all three cards when the fight was stopped in Round 11.
This weekend at London’s 02 Arena, Bellew will give Haye his rematch. Haye is of course a former cruiserweight standout, uniting three of the alphabet-soup belts in 2008 before moving up to heavyweight. At heavyweight, he was a top contender, winning the WBA trinket from the gigantic Nikolay Valuev. He was physically overmatched by Wladimir Klitschko in 2011 but knocked out Dereck Chisora in 2012.
After the win over Chisora, Haye appeared set to face Tyson Fury twice, before ultimately staying inactive for 3.5 years. In 2016 he returned to action and knocked out Mark de Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj, both inside of two rounds. His show down with Bellew was the first truly significant fight of his comeback.
Haye and Bellew are 37 and 35 respectively. In another division, this fight might not be worth noticing. At heavyweight, it’s relevant, especially in this era, with the division crashing the spotlight. As much as I like the cruiserweight division, the true reality of the sport is that there is generally more money to be made as a heavyweight stepping stone than a cruiserweight champion.