After a tense and abusive build up, David Haye v Tony Bellew lived up to expectation and was more of a spectacle than many fight-fans expected. The match-up sold out the O2 arena minutes after the tickets were released and fans watched on as two real sporting warriors went toe to toe. Beyond London’s O2 arena, 700,000 pay-per-view customers and countless bars and pubs also screened the fight, making it one of the biggest domestic bouts in the history of British boxing.
Haye’s confidence in the early rounds was apparent, as it had been before the fight, and as a result his 11th round TKO loss was a shock to many. The vast majority of pundits predicted a Haye win and notably James DeGale was the only prominent boxer to publicly back Bellew before the fight.
The media storm that swirled around Haye before the fight was understandable to an extent, as a former heavyweight world champion making a comeback was big news.
His impressive physique and abrasive comments caught the media spotlight. As a result the fight was an immense financial success for fighters and promoters alike, although Haye has since admitted to BBC Sport that some of his pre-fight comments “went too far” and agreed that he will pay any fine the British Boxing Board of Control see fit to punish him with.
In turn Bellew argued that he “overestimated” Haye, as he told Sky Sports: “In my mind, I was going in against King Kong”. The immense amount of predictions from experts that consistently went in Haye’s favour may have affected the Liverpudlian’s resolve to some extent in the lead up to the fight. If so, he showed none of those nerves in the ring.
Almost all mainstream media outlets have been referring to Bellew’s win as a ‘shock’ result. However, it went under-appreciated that Haye had not fought a high-quality boxer since fighting Dereck Chisora in 2012.
Bookmakers’ odds, pundits’ predictions and the continuing assumption in the media that Haye was a runaway favourite, were all based on a lighter, younger Haye of five to seven years ago. They also presumed a complete lack of valuable ring experience wouldn’t hold the former champion back.
Since his 2016 comeback Haye beat two relative unknowns in the heavyweight division, Mark de Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj. Those fighters offered absolutely no challenge to Haye who knocked out de Mori in the first round and the Swiss fighter, Gjergjaj, in the second.
Meanwhile, Bellew had been trading blows with operators of a much higher calibre, albeit in the Cruiserweight division, and showing immense heart, power and skill. While his heart and punch-power have always been admired, it is Bellew’s skill that has perhaps gone underappreciated, as the bout showed.
Haye’s Achilles injury left many wondering whether Bellew would have beaten an un-injured Haye, but the Northern fighter broke a bone in his hand before that point in the fight and had demonstrated early on that he could cope with Haye’s much-lauded power.
The Londoner and former world champ had lost some of the speed that made up the core of his fighting-style, with Bellew commenting in his Sky Sports News interview: “Was he as quick [as I expected]? Maybe not. Was he as good? Maybe not.”
Bellew has now, rather strangely given his grounding as a Cruiserweight, become one of the most valuable and sought after heavyweight fighters in the world and, while his trainer Dave Coldwell wants him to retire, there are likely to be a lot of very big, very lucrative offers on the table. There was even some speculation as to whether Bellew and Tyson Fury is a possible future match up, after Bellew tweeted a cryptic photo of the two fighters. Elsewhere a fight with New Zealand’s world champion, Joseph Parker, has been hinted at if he overcomes Fury’s younger cousin, Hughie, in May.
The unlikely but scintillating domestic match up of Tony Bellew v Anthony Joshua is also worth a parting mention, given that the fight would be very easy to organise at this point due to the fact that both fighters are promoted by Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing.
Image courtesy of Davide D’Amico