Having sent the boxing world into a state of shock this past weekend with the sort of upset that only seems possible in Hollywood blockbusters, just what is next for Tony Bellew?
Whilst Bellew is no stranger to Hollywood blockbusters having starred in ‘Rocky’ sequel ‘Creed’, perhaps his win over David Haye this past weekend represents one of the biggest upsets seen in British boxing.
Aged 34 Bellew came into the fight as the reigning WBC cruiserweight world champion but had been completely written off by seemingly everyone with an opinion. General consensus stated that Haye was too big, too powerful, too quick and altogether too good for Bellew.
Whilst question marks surrounded Haye and exactly what he had left following years out of the ring and career threatening injuries many were expecting a quick, emphatic knockout win in a completely one-sided mismatch.
Bellew remained confident throughout the intense build up and always believed that he had what it took to defeat the former unified cruiserweight and WBA heavyweight champion.
The fight itself began quickly with Haye immediately on the front foot looking to land shots with bad intentions. Haye threw each shot with real power but was struggling to find the target with the vast majority of his early work looking wild.
Bellew was able to avoid the heavy shots and land his own counters in a fascinating early few rounds. Haye did have periods of success with shots landing cleanly but Bellew took them well and didn’t ever appear in real trouble.
Whilst the action was not toe to toe in the early rounds it still made for edge of the seat viewing as it became clear that we had a real contest on our hands.
The fight was to take a sudden twist in the sixth round when Haye slipped and clearly suffered an injury. With Bellew sensing, this was his time to take control he went in for the kill as both men stood and traded shots.
Haye was struggling with his balance and stumbled down several times in the round but managed to make it through.
in the second half of the fight, Haye showcased the sort of heart and determination that so many spectators have stated he was incapable of. With Haye virtually stuck to the ropes struggling to move, Bellew piled on the pressure in a fight that had turned completely in the Liverpudlian’s favour.
Bellew himself seemed very tired having thrown a lot of punches trying to finish Haye off and had to lower his work rate. Haye occasionally would hobble forward looking to land that one shot but couldn’t do so with any real level of effectiveness.
The fight eventually came to an end in the 11th round with trainer Shane Mcguigan throwing in the towel as Haye tried to fight on after being knocked through the ropes by a Bellew left hook.
Whilst trainer Dave Coldwell and promoter Eddie Hearn began their celebrations Bellew was only interested in showing his respect to Haye. Given all the insults and pre-fight talk it was nice to see both men embrace having earned the respect of the other.
During the post-fight interview, Haye didn’t make any excuses and refused to blame his defeat on the injury showing true sportsmanship and declared that he would be back.
It has since emerged that Haye has undergone Achilles surgery and pictures of him in a cast are flooding social media. Whilst Haye leaves the fight with a defeat and his career under serious threat he should be lauded for an incredible display of bravery.
For Bellew now is the time to think carefully about his next step. With Haye out of the ring for what seems to be a minimum of six months, a rematch seems unlikely next. He has three major choices to consider, stay at heavyweight, move back to cruiserweight or even retire.
The most lucrative option is to stay at heavyweight with the likes of Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker, Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte all being mentioned as potential opponents. A fight with any of those mentioned would be big fights but perhaps Wilder and Parker are at the front of the list given their status as world champions.
The chance to fight a world heavyweight title could prove an extremely tempting one for Bellew and one that would secure him a real legacy when he does walk away from the sport. Such fights shouldn’t prove too tough to make with Parker, in particular, more than willing to fight in Britain.
Bellew could decide to move back down to cruiserweight and look to unify the titles against the likes of Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev. This does, however, seem an unlikely prospect as Usyk, in particular, is a phenomenal fighter but one that would not present Bellew with a big pay day to reward the huge risk.
The choice which Bellew’s trainer Dave Coldwell would like him to make is to retire from the sport. Bellew achieved his dream of becoming a world champion last year at his beloved Goodison Park and has now gone on to put the icing on the cake in beating Haye.
Many feel there is nothing left for Bellew to prove and that perhaps he would be best served walking away from the sport on such a big high much in the same manner as Carl Froch a few years ago.
The Everton fanatic has admitted that he isn’t sure what he will do next but that it will take something major to get him back in the ring so perhaps for that reason a huge heavyweight fight is the most likely choice.
Whatever the future holds for Tony Bellew, he can hold his head high having once again proved all the doubters wrong and shown himself to be a very underrated boxer.