Tony Bellew and Dave Coldwell take their bows
Tony Bellew and trainer Dave Coldwell questioned David Haye’s ability to make it through a tough 12-round fight for months.
They highlighted the inactivity. They highlighted the lack of serious competition. They highlighted the prior injuries. But the so-called experts – like myself – and oddsmakers knew best. “The Hayemaker” would land a big right hand in double-quick time and poor Bellew would be shipped off to a farmyard to be eaten by grazing cattle.
What really happened, however, is all the experts slipped in the proverbial cow sh_t.
On Saturday, Bellew scored a stunning 11th-round stoppage over Haye at the O2 Arena in London, England. The Liverpool man allowed the former cruiserweight and heavyweight titleholder to punch holes through the air for the best part of five rounds and then pounced when Haye’s body betrayed him.
He may have been behind in the scoring but Bellew’s game plan was working and Haye was becoming more and more frustrated. In Round 6, when Haye’s Achilles tendon ruptured, it brought out bravery in the Londoner we’d never seen before. His chances of defeating a battle-tested warrior like Bellew, however, had evaporated. A 12-round contest is a combat marathon and the injured Haye was more accustomed to sprints.
“I told you there was no way that he had 12 rounds in him,” barked Bellew, who still holds the WBC cruiserweight title. “He’s trained to punch something hard and fast a couple of times. He’s not trained for a fight. That might sound stupid but that’s the best way of explaining it.
“The fight went just as I predicted. I said what would happen in all the press conferences. I made him miss and he just fell apart. He just capitulated. People will tarnish my victory because of the injury but his body broke down on him because he doesn’t live right. That’s what I said all along.”
Following the weigh-in, which took place at the piazza at the O2, an immaculately conditioned Haye openly mocked Bellew’s physique. Fans bought into it, many of them citing the exteriors of the respective fighters as being a sure fire way to determine the result. That was crazy but not exactly surprising.
“You can look fantastic but what use are all the muscles and the glistening body if it can’t cope in a fight?” asked Coldwell rhetorically.
“It’s like spending a couple of hundred grand on a Lamborghini and having it parked up on your drive because every time you take it over 60 miles-per-hour, it breaks down. What use is a Lamborghini if it can’t go over 60 miles-per-hour? Tony might look fat and soft but his body is built for fighting. He can fight without his body breaking up.”
“I’m not pleasing on the eye and stylistically it’s the same thing,” agreed Bellew. “Now, I’m going to mention a name here, and under no circumstances am I comparing myself to him because I couldn’t lace his boots, but when you watch Bernard Hopkins, his style wasn’t pleasing on the eye either. He just found a way to win and that’s what I do.
“Mentally, I knew I had to go through hell and back. I was prepared to go to levels that David Haye could only dream of. He was on television earlier today saying that he would have bet his life that he was going to beat me. All of my opponents make that mistake. They look at me and think appearance is everything and then they get the shock of their lives when I get my hands on them.”
I spoke to Bellew eight days prior to the fight. Over the last year or so, the 34-year-old boxer-puncher has forsaken some of his bombastic trash talk for a more clinical and assassin-like demeanor. He dutifully informed me that he was in a bad mood because he had gone 12 rounds with two different heavyweight sparring partners and wasn’t allowed to let his hands go. The smaller man was working exclusively on defusing bombs which takes a tremendous amount of discipline. He was preparing for war, while Haye was looking too far into the future. Bellew was the steppingstone that would soon became a landmine.
“When you prepare yourself to go through hell, you become a different fighter,” said Coldwell. “Bellew came back after one of the rounds with a smile on his face and said, ‘Dave, believe it or not, (Haye) doesn’t actually hit that hard’. Tony did take a big right hand/left hook combination in one of the rounds but, after that, taking shots wasn’t a problem. We were prepared for the worst and when you eventually realize it’s not as bad as you thought, your confidence goes up.
“Now in reality, David trained very hard but he was probably training for (IBF heavyweight titlist) Anthony Joshua. He expected to blow Bellew out. Afterwards, he could then turn around and say, I just smashed Bellew while I was training on a yacht sipping cocktails. Now, I’m going train hard and I’m coming after Anthony Joshua. That all backfired.”
When Haye was nailed in the 11th round and fell through the ropes, he still wasn’t prepared to surrender. A timely white towel from trainer Shane McGuigan signaled the end of the contest and the 36-year-old ex-champion was saved from himself. Bellew, however, seemed aggrieved when the fight was stopped and was reticent to celebrate with Coldwell and promoter Eddie Hearn. He then moved towards Haye in an act of compassion but refused to acknowledge Shane McGuigan.
“I shoved (members of Haye’s team) out the way because they don’t care about him and they don’t know him,” recalled Bellew. “They were there for the paycheck and I felt for David. Actually, I shouldn’t have shown him the compassion that I did because it would have been different had the roles been reversed. If he had knocked me out in the first or second round, he would have ridiculed me. He would have made a fool of me and said I was crap. All the things he said during the buildup, he would have said post-fight.
“I should have celebrated with my coach and my promoter but that’s just the soft side of me coming out. It was good for the public and all that stuff but would he have done it for me? No. Look at what he did to Enzo Maccarinelli when he stopped him. He turned around and said that man isn’t on my level. That’s wrong. Any man can be knocked out.”
In the aftermath, Bellew has been linked to every recognized name within the glamour division. He referenced Deontay Wilder in his post-fight interview and stands firm that he would consider challenging the American for the WBC heavyweight title. Joseph Parker, who will defend his WBO belt against Hughie Fury on May 6 in New Zealand, has been mentioned. THE RING magazine champion Tyson Fury has resurfaced. Bellew has already stated he would not fight friend and stablemate Anthony Joshua but a return with Haye is also a possibility.
From no-hoper to the cruiserweight goose who lays the golden eggs. Bellew has a plethora of options but ironically he already has one foot out the door. Coldwell told me on at least half a dozen occasions that he would like to see him retire and he meant it. Bellew, although realistic about the carrots that are sure to be dangled in front of him, also sounds like a man who is closing in on an escape route. As is always the case, his family remains paramount.
“The more I do it, the harder it gets,” said Bellew in earnest. “It’s at the stage where I’m sending my family out the country. My 11-year-old child turned to me on Monday and said, I’m going to school to tell all those kids that I knew you were going to win. That means kids were saying to him that his dad is going to get beat up or knocked out.
“It’s terrible and I don’t want to be putting my kids through that for much longer. Am I done? I’m close to being done; that’s all I’ll say. Could that have been the last one? Yes, it could. Can I guarantee it’s the last one? No, I can’t because I’ll have to wait and see. I need a bit of time to reflect and I don’t want to make hasty decisions.”
Less than a year ago, Bellew was just a former two-time light heavyweight title challenger who had piled on some weight in the hope of securing another chance. He got that chance and became the WBC cruiserweight titleholder. Last week, he was just a “fat lad” waiting to be harpooned by David Haye. He caught the harpoon, threw it back and hit the target. Let’s give him a break.
Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Gray_Boxing.
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