Tony Bellew produced his career-defining victory with an 11th round stoppage over David Haye in their bitter grudge match at the O2 Arena, London, on Saturday night.
Haye was the proverbial one legged man from the sixth round onwards, an apparent injury to his knee or the rumoured achilles had Haye restricted to fighting off the ropes and allowed Bellew to pour on the pressure until he forced Shane McGuigan to throw the towel in after blasting Haye out of the ring.
The fight started with Haye throwing wild punches, loading up from his boots, but Bellew was slipping and dodging and he caught Haye with a counter right that staggered the Bermondsey fighter. Bellew, surprisingly, looked quicker and was making Haye look amateurish.
The second round was a litter tenser and Haye was starting to reach to Bellew’s body, setting up his fiercer attacks upstairs, but he was still winding up too much and landing very little of note. There was a brief hooking exchange from both men at the end of the round but neither made contact. The third round followed a similar pattern as Haye tried to walk Bellew down but the Liverpudlian continued to keep his distance and make his opponent miss.
A lot had been made in the build up to Haye’s explosiveness and an early finish was predicted by many so it was no surprise when he landed with a right hand and a huge left hook combo early in round four. The surprise, however, was that Bellew stood up to the blows and beckoned his foe to bring it on. Bellew’s confidence, despite shipping punishment, was growing and he was more inclined to stand his ground with Haye. Haye looked calm and composed as he continued to jab to the body in round five whereas Bellew seemed to be struggling slightly with the weight gain.
The turning point of the bout was certainly round six, I had it 3-2 at the time to Haye. Both men were involved in an exchange centre ring and Bellew’s eyes lit up as Haye backed away with a hobble, no chance of hiding his injury. Suddenly both fighters were swinging from the fences and Bellew began to land huge punches, staggering Haye back. Haye was throwing caution to wind and trying to land a jackpot "Hayemaker" but Bellew was the one scoring and he dropped Haye with a right, left combination toward the end of the round. Haye got him but it was obvious that the problem was a serious one.
There were rumours earlier in the week that Haye had flown to Munich to see a specialist over an unspecified injury and the sight of him almost slumping on the stool at the end of the round seemed to make bring a reality to the claims. Haye intimated to his corner that it was his "achilles" but he wanted to continue. Bellew came out like a house on fire for round seven and landed a barrage on Haye, who could not do anything but stagger around the ropes, but soon the pace slowed again as Bellew was unable to land a money punch and tired himself out.
By this time it was apparent that both fighters were feeling the pace of the fight. Haye was clinging to the ropes as he tried to keep Bellew off him but the "Bomber" continued to stalk him and was almost landing at will. Bellew started to get careless in round nine and was caught flush by Haye as he came in on a few occasions, but Haye didn’t have the power in his legs or the ability to move his feet that would allow him to capitalise.
Haye’s corner desperately tried to strap up his ankle at the start of round ten but their man was visibly drained. He was showing incredible grit to bite down on his gumshield and continue but it was becoming increasingly obvious that he had very little left to offer. He was still swinging with all his might but Bellew was untroubled and able to close down the ring, starting to score to the body of his rival whilst making better use of his jab. Bellew caught Haye with an accidental low blow at the end of the round and offered a glove in apology but Haye attempted to take advantage with a huge shot, only to miss wildly and almost fall over.
Haye actually started round 11 on the front foot and scored with a right hand as Bellew chose to stand his ground. Bellew dodged a lunging left hook and Haye tumbled to the deck, looking resigned, and not long after he rose he was backed onto the ropes where a combination to the temple and top of the head sent him crashing through the ropes. He was just about able to crawl back into the ring but Shane McGuigan had seen enough and threw in the towel to halt the contest.
The pre-fight build up was laced with serious bad blood, disgusting insults and quite frankly reprehensible actions on both sides. The fight itself won’t be remembered as a classic and Bellew’s win will be, unfairly, tarnished by some due to Haye’s injury. But the fact remains he rose to the challenge and stopped a man who the majority of the boxing world claimed he couldn’t. There will always be room for a "what if?" and Haye may have secured victory on a different night but this one belongs to Tony Bellew. Both men showed a more class post-fight, which makes their actions beforehand even more disappointing, and this will go down in the history books as a massive upset.
Will they re-match? There was speculation in their post-fight interviews but depending on the extent of Haye’s injury we will see if he fights again. Tony Bellew should return to Cruiserweight to defend his WBC belt, he isn’t a fully fledged Heavyweight despite this victory, but money talks in boxing and nothing would surprise me.
The extent of Haye’s injury will surely be revealed in the coming days and he showed guts to carry on despite the injury. To many this fight will be placed in the more "circus" category of the sport but it was an entertaining night and certainly enhanced the analogy that anything can happen in boxing. Personally, I enjoyed it and take off my hat off to both men. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and cast aspersions but they were in there fighting and the fans in attendance certainly seemed happy with what was served up.
Ireland’s Katie Taylor continued her impeccable transition from Olympic hero to professional champion with an impressive fifth round stoppage over the durable Monica Gentili. I could wax lyrical all day about Taylor’s skills, I don’t think there are enough superlatives to do her justice, and it really isn’t going to be long until she is contesting the biggest titles in women’s boxing. Her left hook to the body is a thing of beauty and she brutalised Gentili with combinations from the opening bell. Gentili marched forwards and showed her toughness but a left hook in the fifth scrambled her senses and the following siege put her on the deck. She rose but was clearly dazed and the referee had seen enough. Taylor, a five time world amateur champion, has had 3 professional fights but there are no doubts she is already prepared to challenge for world honours.
Sam Eggington secured a career-best victory over the faded but legendary Paulie Malignaggi with an eighth round stoppage. Eggington looked at least a weight division heavier than his opponent and used his size advantage from the outset, walking his opponent down and scoring with stiff, crunching right hands. There were brief glimpses of the old "Magic Man" especially in round 6 when at least a dozen punch combination seemed to stun Eggington in almost disbelief, a warning for hanging his chin in the air which is something he cannot do against a heavier handed foe, but the skills and reaction times are far from what they once were. Eggington received a stern lecture from his corner during the interval and renewed his front-foot tactic at the start of the seventh, reddening Malignaggi’s face with more heavy right hands. The end came in the eighth when Eggington sank a brutal left hook to the body of Paulie, who collapsed in agony and could not answer the ten count. Malignaggi, at 36 years old, has given us some tremendous memories but his best days are far behind him, the former world champion is one of the best commentators in the business and fight fans would love him to take up that mantle full time, leaving behind a sure-fire hall of fame career. Eggington, who continues to improve, is an all action fighter and should be contesting a European Title in May on the undercard of Kal Yafai’s homecoming defense.
Ohara Davies destroyed Derry Matthews in 3 rounds to retain his WBC Silver Super Lightweight Championship. A bitter rivalry was ignited on Twitter between the two fighters but it seemed only in words were they evenly matched. Davies’ superior handspeed was clearly bothering Matthews from the outset as he peppered the veteran Liverpudlian with jabs and hard right hands. It was in the third round that Davies stunned Matthews with a right hand/uppercut combination and forced him to take a knee. Matthews resumed but was felled once again by a body and head barrage, the end was clearly in sight. Referee, Victor Loughlin allowed Matthews one final chance but Davies was relentless with his assault and forced the official to intervene with less than ten seconds left on the clock. Davies (now 15-0 with 12 KO’s) will now move onto bigger and better things, who wouldn’t like to see him fight Josh Taylor or Robbie Davies Jnr? However, the career of Derry Matthews appears to be over after his post-fight comments. Matthews has been a tremendous ambassador for the sport and we wish him all the best in his retirement.
Dave Allen secured his second win in just a week as he steamrollered through David Howe in two rounds. Allen (now 11-2-1) nailed his opponent with an overhand right to the temple and a glancing left hand that left Howe unable to answer the referee’s count. Allen’s rejuvenation continues and he will be hoping to move into British title contention later in the year.
IBF Featherweight Champion, Lee Selby returned to in-ring action, after nearly a year’s hiatus, whilst securing a ninth round stoppage victory over Spain’s Adoni Gago. Selby dropped his overmatched opponent in the first round, a well-timed left hand to the top of the head, and outclassed him throughout the bout before the referee stepped in as Selby landed a big left hook and body combo, the only question mark could be over how long it took to dispose of Gago. Selby is a technically gifted fighter and he used this bout as an exercise in releasing frustration after his dream Las Vegas debut was derailed at the eleventh hour last month. He punished Gago to body and head as the rounds wore on, showcasing his excellent combination work, whilst taking his time to excel his movement and footwork. Selby is looking to secure a showdown with one of Abner Mares, Carl Frampton or WBA kingpin, Leo Santa Cruz but he must first wait to see who the IBF rule as his mandatory challenger. His promotional deal with Matchroom ends after this bout so it will be interesting to see the direction of the Welshman’s career from here on out, it is safe to say he won’t have many easier bouts than this.
Bermondsey’s Ted Cheeseman extended his unbeaten ledger (8-0) by inflicting a career first defeat on Jack Sellars, via referee decision. Sellars was game and tough but Cheeseman’s impressive variety of punching and heavier hands proved the difference. Cheeseman dropped his opponent with a devastating right hand in the second round, a punch that would have put paid to many lesser-willed foes, but Sellars proved his heart by getting back to his feet and pushing Cheeseman all the way to the final bell. Cheeseman certainly looks ready to contest title fights and will have one eye on the English Championship bout between Matthew Ryan and Rick Skelton later this month