IN the 10th round David Haye stood in a neutral corner. He leant his gloves on the two taut ropes stretching out from the post. He had to hold himself up. He had shipped countless blows to the head, his ankle had collapsed beneath him, his right leg was now gone. It was a struggle to stand, let alone fight. In genuine pain, losing to a man he hadn’t conceived of being capable of beating him, Haye looked out over the crowd howling all around him. He could have quit. He could have called time at the end of the sixth round when his leg gave way. He could have surrendered during the pummelling he took in those subsequent rounds. He could quit now. Instead he turned back to Tony Bellew, to limp out to meet him and lose the fight.
This was not how it was supposed to unfold. Haye was bigger, much more powerful, a well-established heavyweight. Bellew, when he had called out David Haye, was a talkative cruiserweight world champion who had surely bitten off more than he could chew. The near universal expectation was that Haye would knock out his antagonist. Bellew is hardly a paragon of politically correct virtue but Haye’s low jibes, that these would be Tony’s “last days” and so on ad nauseam, were all the more distasteful since he was indeed going into this contest with all the advantages. The fear was that he would hurt the Liverpudlian.
Haye seemed to have no doubt of that. But he started the fight wildly. He swung heavy overarm shots from the first round, missing Bellew. His range and timing were out. Tony countered with a left hook that tipped David back on his heels for an instant. That might have instilled some respect. In the first half of the fight Haye became more measured. He clipped Bellew with almighty left hooks and a stunning right. The Liverpudlian remained patient, looking to stay clear and counter when he could. Indeed Bellew confounded many simply by reaching the sixth round.