David Haye must never be allowed, conned or persuaded into a ring again but this was Tony Bellew’s night

Haye was a threat until Bellew punched the last hope out of him but make no mistake, he is done

Steve Bunce
Monday 07 May 2018 07:32
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Tony Bellew grieves the death of his brother in law: 'I dedicate this fight to Ash'

It would be wrong to remember Saturday night’s fight as the awful, sad and often pathetic end of David Haye’s boxing life when the real story is Tony Bellew.

The fight finished in the fifth round with Haye on his feet, in the arms of Howard Foster, the referee, and trying to muster a final cry of resistance as his cornermen tumbled into the ring to further surround him. Bellew, his face swollen from Haye’s punches, roared and jumped in and out of the jubilant arms of his backers in a raw display of emotion. The fight must be remembered for Bellew’s triumph and not Haye’s failure because in five savage rounds Bellew made Haye look like an old man, which in boxing is code for the end of a fighter’s career.

Last year they met for the first time, Haye ruptured an Achilles, limped on for six rounds, Bellew finally won, but enough unknowns existed to make Saturday’s rematch a reality; the tickets sold, the pair created the hate they needed and the fight, just like last time, took on a life of its own.

Bellew was far too good for Haye once again

“I knew what would happen, I knew it would be a slugfest,” said Bellew. “I knew I would get to him, I’ve always known that - perhaps everybody will believe me now.” Bellew also deserves not to be repeatedly reminded that he was fighting a man of 37, who first retired in October 2011; Haye was a threat until Bellew punched the last hope out of him.

Bellew was once again the betting underdog, Haye as beguiling as ever and then the first bell fully revealed the deception, the decline in Haye’s ability to balance, coordinate and resist. Bellew timed his counters to precision, moved a fraction beyond Haye’s wild punches just liked he promised. In round three Haye was dropped twice and saved by a bell nobody heard inside the heaving O2, an arena once again transformed into a bear-pit of nearly 20,000 people.

Bellew was sensible in the fourth, aware that being too eager could be a calamity and he was also cruel in the way he stalked Haye, who appeared to be dragging his right foot, dragging it across the canvas just like it was attached to a heavy chain. Bellew has been in boxing gyms for 25 years and he knew it was a matter of time - time he had and time Haye, once the heavyweight champion of the world, had run out of. At some point in round four as Haye, breathing in desperate gulps like a drowning animal, fell about the ring the many fans of the charismatic boxer must have been tempted to make a pair of finger goggles to shield their eyes from his suffering. Haye could barely walk at the bell to end the fourth. I wanted it stopped then, I had seen enough of a kid I first saw fight nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Bellew showed his ruthless streak against Haye

In round five Haye was over again, a victim of a sickening left hook that swivelled his head violently and sent him down face first. It was a stunning knockdown and Haye scrambled up to his knees and stared with terrifying blank eyes at the referee as the count reached eight; he should have stayed down, but he got up and Bellew attacked him again. Bellew likes to joke about being a “fat, big-mouthed scouser with a big arse” but he is ruthless in the presence of a wounded man, as nasty a finisher as I have ever seen. A few seconds later it was over.

Haye must never be allowed, conned or persuaded to enter the ring as a boxer ever again. The deluded souls in our business - Haye attracts them like a magnet for the fame-seeking - need to take their crazy whispers elsewhere and let Haye settle into a safe future away from any memory of what he once was; Haye is finished, make no mistake.

Haye was felled for the final time in the fifth

There is a stupid and lazy axiom in boxing about the last thing that a fighter loses is his punch and it is glorious dribble - the last thing a boxer loses is his desire to fight. Haye promised to go away and “look at the tape of the fight and see what went wrong.” Hopefully, nobody will allow that idiocy to happen and somebody will sit him down and tell him the cold, hard facts: It’s over.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do now,” said Bellew at the end. “This was just about beating Haye - I have no idea where I go now. I have no idea if I fight again. I just don’t know.” Bellew is 35, the two Haye fights have taken a toll, but they have also shown, after his transition from cruiserweight, he can beat small heavyweights. Eddie Hearn, his promoter, and Dave Coldwell, his trainer, seemed equally perplexed when pushed for an itinerary. “If Tony called me and said: ‘I’m retiring.’ I would be happy,” said Hearn. “But, he’s getting better and why walk away? He just finds a way to win, he’s remarkable.”

The pair shared a moment at the end of the fight

The two Bellew and Haye fights were shaped away from the ring by the seemingly endless list of confrontations, shoves, ugly comments and threats spread evenly over an 18-month period. However, and this must never be overlooked in the zealous pursuit to dismiss the fights as nothing more than circus events, the fights were always gripping, vicious and dramatic - I was eight or so feet away on both nights and it was brutal to witness that close.

Haye is now done, nobody really knows what Bellew wants to do from here and they each left behind far too much in the ring they shared. It’s called sacrifice and nobody should get criticism for that.

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