In the war of words pre-fight, the Hayemaker insisted he would send Bellew to hospital but it was him who ended up in A&E with an injured ankle.
The South Londoner was ahead on the scorecards until he picked up the injury in the sixth round, yet continued to fight back until the 11th round when trainer Shane McGuigan rightfully threw in the towel.
The Liverpudlian immediately called on the big fights in the heavyweight division following the TKO victory of his rival.
Haye was humble in defeat, deliberately avoiding any mention of the injury that debilitated him in the second half of the fight, and pleaded for a rematch.
The first bell signalled a frenzied opening round that had the crowd on their feet and on tenterhooks, with Bellew showing a lack of fear by opening up and landing a solid punch to Haye’s temple. The Londoner responded, but Bellew was sharper and more accurate and smashed another right into his rival’s head. First round to the underdog.
The second round saw Haye unleash a big overhand right that smashed into Bellew’s face, it was the punch that Haye had been waiting to land but the Scouser just shook it off, proving he can play a Rocky film in real life, too.
In the third, neither fighter could gain control as the action ebbed and flowed, with Haye looking for his big shots while Bellew proved a difficult target to hit.
The fourth round belonged to Haye as his sledgehammer punches twisted Bellew’s head one way and then the other. It appeared to be the beginning of the end for the brave Bellew as Haye began to find his target. However, the avid Everton fan stood strong under the heavier fighter's power.
Bellew tried to rough up Haye in the fifth, but referee Phil Edwards was quick to break them up. When the bell signalled the end of the round, Bellew walked towards Haye to say ‘I’m still here’.
The sixth was explosive with Haye commanding the round and dictating the pace, circuling that powerful right hannd waiting for the opportunity to let it go. Just over the minute mark, Haye staggered back after it seemed his ankle gave way. Bellew sensed blood and pounced but took a slip which afforded his crocked opponent a chance to regain his footing. After bouncing off off the ropes and finding the corner, Haye briefly looked down upon his gammy leg before he spent the rest of the round trading with Bellew.
Haye twice slipped to the canvas in the final 60 seconds given a count by referee Phil Edwards moments before the end of the round. Bellew's effective right hand troubled Haye who staggered to the corner looking very worse for wear.
By the end of the seventh Haye was looking a poor sight as he staggered back to his corner with a noticeable limp. Bellew was in control and Haye was hanging on — but only just.
Pre-fight, the majority, Haye included, believed that Bellew would need a miracle to get past the opening rounds, but it was Haye that was in need of a miracle by the championship rounds of this grudge match.
Round 10 saw Haye’s corner send him out with heavy strapping around the ankle, that had to be given the OK by the referee.
Despite a valiant and brave effort, the fight was all over by the 11th round when trainer McGuigan rightfully, and thankfully, threw in the towel from the corner. It was a sorry sight to see the two-weight world champion limping around the ring, dragging an injured leg behind him and soaking up too much punishment from the eventual winner.
Haye was humble in defeat, saying, “It felt like a Rocky film in there. This guy has the heart of a lion, I did not expect him to have the chin and durability. He was by far the better fighter tonight.
“Tony was a great fighter, that’s what went wrong. I felt great and wanted to do a demolition job.
“I believe I’m more gifted but he had bigger balls and better heart.
“I can’t go back to world honours. I’m at his mercy, there’s no rematch clause.
“If he will oblige the rematch. I’d go to his hometown.
"I gave him my best.”
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