Talking Boxing

Interviews, opinions, features and news from the greatest sport in the world!

December 21, 2016

The Dempsey Digest: Vol. 2

Luke Blackledge

Internationally acclaimed TV and radio sports presenter Paul Dempsey is one the most respected voices in the boxing industry. For over 20 years Dempsey has covered the sport for Sky Sports, Setanta, BT and more. Now, Dempsey lends his thoughts and views to Talking Boxing. The second edition of The Dempsey Digest takes a look at all things David Haye v Tony Bellew ahead of their March 4 fight, beginning with what went down at their first press conference last month.

I thought it was an absolute mountain out of a molehill. I’ve seen it, there’s nothing in it. It’s not becoming of either fighter really, but particularly Haye. I have seen ten times worse.

People really shouldn’t read anything into it particularly. But Haye needs to be careful. It does indicate something.

I wasn’t at it myself, but very often little incidents like that really start to grow inside the minds of fighters before a big fight. So, it’s possible that Bellew will have taken encouragement from that. The reason I’m saying only possible is because I almost expected Bellew to come out afterwards and say: ‘There you are I’ve got him’. Because I have seen that before, and he didn’t do that.

Now he may be being really smart and going privately, when he’s away from the cameras, going I’ve got him, I’ve got his number. That wouldn’t shock me if that is true because what I saw suggested he’s entitled to think that.

It wouldn’t surprise me either if Haye is quite comfortable to be like this. The reason I say this is because it’s such a critical fight for Haye. Only being on the edge is going to be good enough to get him where he needs to get to, mentally. The idea that Bellew is annoying him, is a threat... because he’s fought two patsies since he came back. They shouldn’t have been in the ring with him. This indicates to me he is already on edge, and it’s how that’s managed. It could be managed in a good way for Haye.

If I was in Bellew’s camp I’d be saying to Bellew privately, ‘That’s great. He’s really worried about you. He’s on edge. He could completely blow over before the fight’. On the other hand again Haye has been around a long, long time and he’s got to understand that’s all well and good. The week of the fight he can’t get into that. And the weigh-in, he’s got to get on and off those scales and do the photograph and get ready to fight. He’s got to understand all of that. It is a huge moment in Haye’s life, not just career.

The incident in Germany (with Dereck Chisora) was much worse. That was a disgrace, that’s why I say there wasn’t much in this one. He has a lot of form for doing that, and Haye has to understand that people don’t want to watch that. They don’t care, really, about it. It damages him in terms of his lovability factor to the wider public. It’s not a good thing for him to do. People don’t like it actually.

You can argue it puts bums on seats, but the general public don’t like it. It can be a turn-off. He’s done that and he need not to do that again. And the problem is he’s got form, and it does indicate to me already that he is already on the edge. They’ve got to find a way to control that pressure cooker mentally. Conversely what I will say, the camp have told me that is an extraordinarily good specimen to work with, physically. He is an exceptional athlete and always has been. He’s the old guy in this fight and he really should know better than to let it all blow off in a way which might damage him at a press conference months before the fight. It doesn’t bode well for him before the fight.

Haye needs to listen to people who know, and that’s been one of David’s problems in my view for a long time, but particularly in the last two years. If there’s one thing I can get out in this interview, there’s a lot of people out there who think Haye and I have a problem. That is actually, from my side, completely not the case. In fact the converse is true. I feel, I have always believed in him and believed in his ability.

If I take you back to the (Wladimir) Klitschko fight I was in America when that happened. And on American TV they said things about David Haye, after the fight, that made me wince. They accused him of cowardice, basically. Because that is not the guy as a fighter I knew, who’d been on this great run. I felt to a degree they had an agenda against him from the start, but who could argue with them if you only judge that performance that night.

The problem is that is his defining career moment as we speak, and it may well be that the reputational damage done to him that night, he may never recover from. He’s got to face that. If he’s got any chance of going into retirement as happy as possible it depends on a statement performance against Bellew.

I don’t think it’s a mismatch. I think it’s a cracking fight. I applaud everyone who’s helped to put it together because this is the kind of fight that boxing needs, and I don’t rule Bellew out unlike a lot of people. Haye should be the favourite, and for the reason that he said himself at that press conference.

You can argue up and down but ultimately history says the bigger guy beats the smaller guy. Haye has got to hope that all the work he does for this fight is A1, because nothing else is going to be good enough. And I know that the people around him will be telling him that. And he knows without being told that there is simply no excuses. It’s all upside for Bellew and it’s all downside for Haye. Because if he knocks him out in the first round people will go ‘mismatch’. He’s just got to get in there and get the W.

Unless it was a ridiculous stroke of ill fortune, as in he tripped over and got hit on the way down or he got a terrible cut, those are the only circumstances in him not winning the fight could even give his career a boost. So, he’s got it all to lose.