By Keith Idec
Tony Bellew pleasantly surprised David Haye by testing Oleksandr Usyk as well as he did Saturday night.
Haye has squashed his beef with Bellew and was rooting from a ringside seat for the man that stopped him twice to pull off what would’ve been a big upset versus Usyk. By the time the fourth round ended Saturday night in Manchester, England, Haye began believing Bellew had a legitimate shot to do just that against boxing’s undisputed cruiserweight champion.
“I thought he boxed fantastically well,” Haye told BoxingScene.com following Bellew’s eighth-round knockout defeat. “You know, I had him up one round going into that round he got stopped in. You know, he was counterpunching well. He was giving Usyk more problems than I’ve ever seen him have. He just wasn’t able to hold his form together. He seemed to unravel as the fight went on.
“Usyk is a great champion. You know, no one was really expecting Bellew to win any of the rounds, let alone to be completely dominating a large majority. Particularly rounds two, three and four, I had it for Bellew in a big way. But the cream rises to the top, as they say.”
Two judges had Bellew ahead when Usyk caught him with a left hand that knocked out the game challenger (68-65, 67-66, 67-67).
Bellew (30-3-1, 20 KOs), who’ll turn 36 on November 30, repeatedly promised prior to Saturday and again after his loss that he won’t box again. He has assured his new wife, Rachael, that this was the last fight of his 11-year pro career.
If that holds true, Haye has a lot of respect for what Bellew has accomplished.
“Bellew should be very proud of his boxing career,” said Haye, who retired once Bellew beat him a second time May 5 in London. “He says he’s gonna retire from boxing, and he should be very proud. You know, he lost to Stevenson for the light heavyweight title. Everybody wrote him off after that. They said, ‘He can’t take a shot. Blah, blah, blah.’ He moved up to cruiserweight and everyone said, ‘It’s the wrong thing. These guys are too big. From 175 pounds to 200 pounds is too much of a difference.’ But he won the European title, won the world title and then he went up to heavyweight and fought one of the big boys, fought myself, and he beat me twice. So you have to give the guy credit.”
Liverpool’s Bellew went 7-0, including five knockouts, in cruiserweight contests after Adonis Stevenson stopped him in the sixth round of their fight for Stevenson’s WBC light heavyweight title in November 2013. The former WBC world cruiserweight champ moved back down from heavyweight to challenge Ukraine’s Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) after defeating Haye twice by technical knockout.
“Unfortunately, he fell short here against the very, very best, a guy who’s in his prime,” Haye said. “And that’s the one thing nobody was really talking about. Usyk, he’s the perfect age for a cruiserweight . He’s won all the belts. He’s done everything right in his career so far. Olympic champion, [World Boxing Super Series] title fights, and now unified titles, coming here, filling out arenas. You know, so [Bellew] lost to a great champion, who will go on to be a great champion in the future.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.