DAVID HAYE and Tony Bellew don’t have a longstanding rivalry, though the hostility is mounting after today’s explosive press conference.

“We’ve never been friends. We’re associates, we knew each other. I’ve got respect for him, he’s a brilliant fighter, he’s amazing at what he does,” Bellew said.

But Bellew insists he is not overawed, pointing to a long past sparring session they once had. “He paid me a hundred quid and he got the s*** kicked out of him,” Tony insisted, although Haye denies it. “I got in. I hit him with a shot on the forehead, with a left hook to forehead, whacked him to body and he took a knee. He stopped sparring. He pulled out the next day, with a hamstring injury. I’m not saying I dropped him. But he took a knee.

“’Ooh, me hamstring or me groin.’ It was something like that and then he took a knee. We were told, if we drop him or we flatten him we get a grand.”

But he added, “Did I f*** get the grand, no. So he owes me an extra grand.”

There were witnesses to this session at the Salisbury amateur boxing club in Liverpool Tony maintains, saying, “David Price was there to witness it, Adam Booth witnessed. He can say whatever he wants: ‘didn’t happen’. It did happen.”

Bellew will make plenty more than that outstanding grand when he boxes Haye at the O2 on March 4. Tony insists he is highly motivated regardless of the reward. “Money cannot change me because I’m crazy. There’s something wrong with me,” he said. “I could I have 10 million in the bank and I would go in and fight for a pound to the finish.

“It doesn’t matter how much I make, it’s not about money, I have to win.”

The Liverpudlian also doesn’t think David Haye has the same motivation. “He made that much money it made him soft and it made him walk away from boxing,” Bellew suggested. “I think it was 32 he was going to retire. He’s 36 and still here.

“He was getting paid buttons to fight Jean Marc Mormeck because he was driven by the glory. Same as I was at Goodison Park. I’m still driven. I’m still driven by what drove him in Paris. I’m driven in that way.”