Tony Bellew delivered on his rematch promise to defeat David Haye quicker by putting on a counter-punch clinic with three knockdowns for a dominant fifth round TKO.
Haye carried the first two rounds by keeping distance and landing long jabs and straight rights. But when the fight went inside, Bellew’s sharper technique took over by forcing Haye to exchange. He dropped the former heavyweight title-holder twice in the third with counter right hands. On the second knockdown, Haye grimaced in pain and held his right ankle. Despite this, Haye had enough of his bearings to move and survive the round.
Haye was evasive enough to make it through the fourth but looked perilously close to being stopped any time Bellew attacked. The Hayemaker punch to turn the bout around wasn’t there due to Haye’s poor balance. In the fifth, he threw a wide left hook that put him in line for Bellew to deliver a compact, textbook left hook of his own, resulting in Haye careening face-first to the canvas.
Haye beat the count but couldn’t mount a strong defense, prompting the referee stoppage. Afterward, Haye offered no excuses and dismissed the speculation he was injured in round three. Although the 37-year old Haye wouldn’t commit to retiring, Bellew said he hoped his rival would call it quits.
“This is a young man’s game. I told the referee after the third to stop the fight,” said Bellew. “The only reason I gave him a chance in the fourth was because he’s so heavy-handed. I hope he makes a (retirement) announcement in the next few days.”
Haye’s been on borrowed time for years. The explosive athleticism that defined his cruiserweight and early heavyweight run have completely eroded from injuries. He’s still in good shape, but the added weight from age and muscle makes him lethargic and predictable in the ring. There is absolutely no reason for him to continue on at 37.
As for Bellew, his domestic star is bright. He called out a myriad of opponents but sounded most interested in luring Andre Ward out of retirement. If Ward isn’t swayed by the possibility of a high-level UK fight, Bellew has a few other opens at heavyweight (Fury, Whyte) and cruiser (Usyk-Gassiev winner) to keep him occupied. Not bad for a 35-year old looking to close out a career on favorable terms.