DAVID HAYE insists he will never be friends with Tony Bellew — but does admit the Scouse scrapper has earned his grudging respect.
Former world heavyweight champion Haye takes on Bellew in a much-delayed rematch on May 5 after the Hayemaker was stopped in 11 rounds back in March.
Haye suffered a badly torn Achilles in that fight — and was then forced to pull out of the rematch which was first scheduled for December 17 when he injured a bicep in training.
But ahead of their reunion next year at London’s O2, Haye is not so keen to engage in a fresh war of words — admitting all the verbal sparring took its toll on him.
Haye lost to Bellew after sustaining a badly torn Achilles
When asked if he likes Bellew, Londoner Haye, 37, replied: “No, not that much, he is not my type of guy.
“If we weren’t in the same sport he is not the type of guy I would hang around with.
“He is not like any of my mates. I’m sure to his buddies he is a great guy. But there is nothing I hear him say or do that would make me think, ‘Oh yeah, I’d really like to spend some time with him’.
“I had to listen to him yapping in my ear.
“But he has forced me to respect him for what he did in the last fight — he did what he said he would do.
“And I do owe him a debt of gratitude for sure — he did not have to take this fight, to give me the chance to right a wrong.”
During the build-up to their first fight, Haye and Bellew, 35, traded insults that many thought were way over the top. Haye said Bellew would leave the ring on a stretcher.
And then the pair almost came to blows during a press conference face-off. Haye has admitted that Bellew got inside his head — and he was not in the right frame of mind when the bell sounded in March.
He added: “I got too wound up in the first fight. I let it become too personal, I never thought any fighter could get to me.
“Bellew has a very grating personality, I am not going to get dragged into that again.
“I learned my lesson from the first fight, screaming and shouting and talking all kinds of c**p.
“I was not in a pure fighting zone, it was a real mess.
“I’ve spoken with my coach Ismael Salas and he says to stay cool, calm and collected.
“Turn up for training, be fresh and ready to go, that’s it.
“Maybe that’s why I started the first fight so wild mentally. I was not in the right place. It won’t happen again. It was a tough lesson to learn, a painful lesson, but I rarely make the same mistake twice.
“I don’t need to wind myself up and listen to what he says, I don’t care what he says — no matter how annoying or mean.
“Why should I let some words affect what I will do in a fight?
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“Bellew believes he has taken my best, I don’t think he has.
“My best would leave him unconscious — I wasn’t in a position to land my best last time.
“From the first round, clearly I was doing something wrong.
“Watching myself back on tape against Bellew, I’d say that was the worst I have ever seen myself.
“I’ve never been that reckless, I have never ever missed so many punches as that.
“Maybe he has a brilliant defence!”