By Jake Collins (@MelancholyFolly)
I was planted in my seat at the obligatory Irish bar in Amsterdam’s Red light District, surrounded by excitable Scousers (I live in London, for clarity). “Look lads, you’ve got to put aside your patriotism and look at the facts – your man is getting splattered. I watch a lot more boxing than you; I even write about it (I’d had a few drinks at this point)”. And when the fight ended in round 11, I did my very best Erislandy Lara impression out of the bar.
So many of us boxing enthusiasts who consider ourselves ‘above casuals’ with our lofty knowledge of the spot and unquestionable analysis were wrong-footed by this fight. And on reflection, it’s still a huge shock – but one we perhaps should have allowed some more time for.
Haye’s injury (the pictures of which are quite repulsive by the way) was greeted with skepticism even by myself during the fight. The same skepticism I applied after the Wlad loss and the other fight pull-outs. This time however, he has a genuine excuse for losing. You can see in the 6th the exact moment disaster strikes and it even seems as if Bellew noticed this himself. Not to discredit Bellew, he still did what he had to do and was well in the fight up to the 6th anyway. Haye looked slow, ponderous and somewhat one-dimensional in his approach. At no point did this look like the fighter we thought would be able to make movements within the heavyweight scene again. And even those who expected him to look a little shot still assumed it’d be too much for Bellew.
We overlooked how long ago his last competitive fight was against Chisora. We overlooked how much difference the extra weight would make to him. And I think we even overlooked how good a heavyweight Haye actually happened to be. Ruiz, Valuev and Chisora are decent enough scalps but we saw how one-sided the fight against a bigger fighter with a very solid degree of technical ability was in the Wlad fight. There’s no shame in losing to Wlad, in fact you can take credit for not being stopped by that version of Wlad but it’s either that or the Chisora KO which are his greatest achievements at the weight. I’ve often thought with Haye we weld his success at cruiserweight with this heavyweight record too much. Heavyweight is vastly different to any other weight and the jump between the two weights is a significant one.
We bemoaned the circus act between the two leading up to the fight (showing respect after a fight is one thing but this has been a watershed away from a passionate love scene, crazy considering how much animosity there was pre-fight) and deplored the casual fans who delved into their pockets for this manufactured rivalry. But ultimately it was us who became the conned ones. We bought into Haye’s spiel about being in top shape and that he has no injury concerns. Even when it was announced a few days before he might have a problem we sneered with false intellect about how it was just another one of his mind games. What we should have questioned was how do we know he isn’t shot? He hasn’t been on the platform to demonstrate that since 2012! Instead, he went for what was probably the biggest money making fight he could get that he should still win even if he was shopworn.
It was a no doubt a monumental upset and even factoring all the above into account it’s still a shocking result. But I think sometimes us boxing fans need to look beyond contradicting the casual audience and really weigh things up properly.by