Tony Bellew has revealed that a knockdown in a sparring session led a British great to pull out of a fight the next day.
An exciting prospect even before he turned over, Bellew would spar with the pros out of the gym in Liverpool. One man who did so was David Haye – a future opponent of Bellew’s but, at that time, a cruiserweight prospect with 13 stoppages in 14 fights to his name.
Haye was coming off the back of an unsuccessful jump up to world level against Carl Thompson – his sole loss – and was looking to challenge for the British title.
Speaking on Up Front With Simon Jordan, Bellew said that both he and David Price got the better of Haye as amateurs in the gym.
“When I sparred him it was , I’d just become ABA champion. He was looking for sparring partners, he came to Liverpool. He was fighting a guy called Mark Hobson – British cruiserweight champion.”
Me and David Price came in as sparring partners and, to be honest, we absolutely mullered him. The next day he pulled out and said he had a hamstring problem. I dropped him. And I don’t have a reason to claim [this], because I’ve stopped him twice when I’ve fought him.
I dropped him that day … I said to said to David Price after that sparring session in  ‘I’m gonna fight him one day.'”
Haye did indeed pull out of the Hobson fight due to injury, and it was doomed to never be rescheduled.
He would face Bellew in the final two fights of his pro career, plagued by injuries and losing first in the eleventh round then in the fifth. The scraps were framed by a bitter rivalry and harsh words.
After putting an end to that, Bellew moved back down to cruiserweight to challenge undisputed champion, Oleksandr Usyk. He was knocked out eighth round, marking his retirement and the Ukrainian’s move up to heavyweight.