Tony Bellew believes he would beat David Haye even if his heavyweight foe was at the peak of his powers, and is plotting an end to their rivalry within eight rounds of their rematch on May 5.
Haye unified three of the four major world cruiserweight titles a decade ago, while it has been almost seven years since he lost his WBA heavyweight title to Wladimir Klitschko.
A shock defeat to Bellew at London’s O2 Arena in March 2017 in Haye’s first significant contest following a three-and-a-half-year absence from the ring led many observers to conclude the Londoner, now 37, was past his prime.
However, ahead of the return bout at the same venue next Saturday, Bellew, himself a former world cruiserweight champion, posited the idea that his skillset means he would be able to beat any version of Haye.
The Liverpudlian told Press Association Sport: “I’ll beat David Haye no matter what day of the year it is. Ten years ago or right now, it doesn’t matter.
“I’m faster than anyone he’s ever faced, I’m someone who can dictate, I’m someone who can make him miss, I’m someone who’s got enough pop in his punch to make him think twice about engaging.
“I’m not saying I’m better than any fighter he’s faced because he’s faced much better fighters than me – Wladimir Klitschko is far better than me, but he can’t do the things that I can do.
“Quite simply it’s styles make fights. My style is just wrong for David Haye and he should have stayed well clear of me.
“Any version of David Haye that comes in, I will adapt and I will adjust accordingly and I will defeat him again.”
Haye’s 11th-round stoppage defeat last year was in part mitigated by the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered midway through the bout, visibly discomforting him, and Bellew admitted the incident was a blow to his own gameplan.
However, he is predicting a far more emphatic ending this time around.
The 35-year-old said: “By getting the injury he just delayed the inevitable. The only thing I didn’t anticipate in that fight was him getting injured.
“I anticipated everything coming, but I didn’t think he was going to break down in that way. I thought he was going to tire and be so tired, I was going to put him to sleep.
“What I didn’t anticipate was some fella going to the ropes and just lying there waiting for the big honey punch.
“It might sound easy to deal with, but it was very, very hard because if I put the shoe on the other foot, if I’d have just gone to the ropes and defended myself, he would get nothing off, I’d just defuse him.
“I can go into this fight and barely take a shot, but I’m not coming into this fight with that frame of mind because I’m coming in to win, so I’m going to have to take some stick on the way.
“I’ve got a good boxing brain and I can adapt and adjust to any situation. If I use my brain and I make the right adjustments at the right times, I’ll have rid of David Haye before the eighth round.”