It’s been the talk of the weekend, and no one can seem to work it out…
David Haye‘s clash with Tony Bellew on Saturday night was filled with vitriol from the moment it was announced, and when two polarising boxers get it on in the ring, the watching public are usually split.
It was no different on Saturday night, when Haye – who has struggled to be universally accepted for his achievements in the ring – took on Bellew, a career-long Light-Heavyweight/Cruiserweight, stepping up a division purely for a prizefight that would secure the future of his family from a financial perspective (fair play by the way, anyone would do the same when they make a living from being punched in the face).
The outcome was entertaining yet frustrating, as Haye tumbled out of the ring via a Bellew left hand and despite making it back into the ring, watching on as the the towel was thrown in by his trainer, Shane McGuigan.
However, the whole thing was ruined in the sixth round, when Haye visibly suffered a serious injury midway through the round. It looked like a turned ankle at first, but was later confirmed to be a ruptured Achilles – something that Haye had played down before the fight, when pictures of him in a surgery in Germany surfaced online.
— JBOXINGHQ (@jboxinghq) March 5, 2017
For days, I’ve been seeing people on social media and online saying things like “Haye’s bottled it again, he’s not got the fight for it anymore”, and to be quite honest, it’s total bullshit.
Haye has pulled out of fights before (twice against Tyson Fury famously), no one can deny that; but getting in the ring with Bellew despite the rumours of an Achilles injury showed immense bravery and heart, and people shouldn’t forget that.
Let’s not forget that his Achilles went halfway through the fight, meaning the rumours that were quashed were actually true, and Haye was not the “pussy” so many have labelled him in the aftermath of the fight.
I mean come on, you try and fight someone with only the use of your left leg to support you…
David Haye is a pussy, I'd batter him.
— Korki Buchek (@henrydyke00) March 5, 2017
In terms of the fight itself, it was largely underwhelming until that moment in the sixth where Haye began to stumble around the ring after suffering the injury – Haye loaded up too much looking for his patented ‘Hayemaker’, while Bellew used his speed to stay away from the heavy right hands that were aimed at his chin.
In fact, up until the sixth, Haye’s willingness to take the fight to Bellew had him ahead on many cards, as Bellew focused more on not getting hit, rather than putting it on Haye himself.
But that sixth round was the turning point, and it’s hard to see how anyone can claim that the injury didn’t affect the outcome of the fight.
Put aside your personal thoughts on Haye, and look at it for what it is – a man going toe-to-toe with another man with only one working leg, while trying not to get knocked out and actually looking to win the fight himself, despite his handicap.
While Haye did all he could to walk Bellew onto one of his power shots, the Scouser still struggled to put away the part-incapacitated Londoner for a further five rounds, before fatigue set in and the crucial left hand landed, sending Haye sprawling out of the ring onto the tables at ringside.
That takes incredible heart on Haye’s part, make no bones about it. He could have pulled out the minute the sixth round ended (or even before), but didn’t because of the fight with Wladimir Klitschko fight back in 2011 – when he broke his little toe three weeks before the fight and was universally panned for blaming it in the immediate aftermath.
You could even see it in the post-fight interview, when Haye was asked what happened in the sixth round and responded with “he beat me fair and square”, rather than “my Achilles went”. He didn’t want the injury to overshadow Bellew’s win, which takes an incredible amount of pride-swallowing.
The only way to settle the debate of who is the better man would be to have a rematch, but with Haye needing time to recover from surgery and Bellew thinking hard about retirement or a fight with Deontay Wilder, that could be something we may never see.
And it’s a shame, because injury robbed us of seeing a fitting end to one of the fights of 2017 – not Bellew’s superior skills on the night.