On Saturday night, Tony Bellew shocked the boxing world. If he’s honest, he shocked himself. David Haye’s recovery was an unknown quantity since returning from injury. Two “fights” against men not fit for sparring told us very little. And the fitness question mark will always hang over Haye’s head. That being said, his explosive punching power was never in doubt. What transpired was something straight from fiction but Haye didn’t lose to Bellew in the eleventh round – that had happened months before and was confirmed in the build-up.
Imagine the scenario: a cruiserweight hounds and pesterers the perceived best heavyweight on the planet. The attacks are verbal and public. The heavyweight struggles to go about his daily business because the yapping cruiserweight will not go away.
So the man in the weight division above finally gives in and agrees to a bout he’s sees as nothing more than an inconvenience – a money spinner, maybe – but still a major unnecessary distraction.
The fight goes ahead and the outcome is what the heavyweight expected: he wins.
That heavyweight was Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye was the annoying cruiserweight. It’s why he hated Bellew so much in the build-up to their fight. The Liverpudlian had out-Hayed Haye. He’d been backed into a corner through persistence, his planned plot back to the top delayed.
Now the question becomes: was that outpouring of anger something deeper rooted than a mere dislike for changing his plan? Was he worried Bellew – a fighter looking like he’s still on the way to finding his prime – could expose his newfound flaws? There was a reason Haye hadn’t taken a proper bout since his shoulder injury.
This doesn’t mean anything should be taken away from either fighter. Both Haye and Bellew gave good accounts of themselves on Saturday. After the first round, Haye took control. It was when he decided to trade blows in the centre of the ring in the middle of the fight that his night unravelled. It looked like something from a Rocky movie at the time and was described that way by Haye afterwards.
Then the extent of the injury to Haye became obvious. He dragged his foot around the ring like he was auditioning for a role in The Walking Dead. But he was a zombie that hung on and kept coming back for more.
The damaged heel isn’t an excuse for his loss, but a reason to consider retiring. He can’t keep going to the well when it’s nearly running dry.
Naturally there will be calls for Haye’s corner to be examined. The criticism being they should have thrown in the towel earlier. The Reflective takes the opposing view. He wasn’t taking dangerous head shots and they can’t pull a proud man early when he still wants to go toe-to-toe.
Haye played the role of bad guy beforehand but he showed heart and spirit when many others would have taken the easy way out.
Eventually that pride had to give way to the inevitable fall. It was a physical descent and a metaphorical one from grace. Not that he’d ever shown much of that, but his royal standing was removed, humility served. A career that remains in intensive care.
About the distasteful side of Haye in the promotion of the bout: he needs to be cut some slack. He remembers when the benchmark for heavyweight trash talking was set by Tyson, saying he’d eat Lewis’s children. It’s panto. Brutal panto, but panto all the same.
The PC brigade have no place in softening boxing’s bravado. And before they jump on that one line: I’m not saying comments that marginalise or discriminate race, colour or sexual preference are acceptable. But nasty words between two men absorbed in their roles is okay. It’s expected. They do have tickets to sell.
And it’s now Bellew that holds a wad of offers, all resulting in more life-changing paydays. Make no mistake, this was always about winning the payday lottery for the Scouser. It follows a trend of boxers seeking bouts beyond their ability, in weight divisions above, for one highly publicised contest.
Except the result was within Bellew’s grasp and he snatched it.
Eddie Hearn won’t want a rematch – that alone could retire Haye if he’s unable to avenge the defeat – he’ll be eyeing the suspect pair that have box office seats, Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker.
Whatever Tony Bellew decides his legacy is already secure. As he continued to point out: he’s a current world champion. He’s also a legitimate heavyweight that deserves to, finally, be taken seriously.