A couple of high-profile bouts unfolded this weekend, with four fan-friendly, marquee names colliding. David Haye met with domestic rival Tony Bellew in England, while undefeated Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia clashed in another highly anticipated stateside meeting.
David Haye vs Tony Bellew
At the O2 Arena, London, Tony Bellew pulled off a career-defining victory, wearing down David Haye en route to an 11th round TKO. Their domestic grudge match, which saw Haye knocked to the canvas twice, was lively and entertaining, with bombs flying in an all-business crowd-pleaser. Dreams were gloriously realised for Bellew, but swiftly crushed for Haye, who was fighting an iron-willed, fired-up customer in Bellew, not to mention a severe leg injury.
Tony Bellew, who currently holds the WBC title a division lower at Cruiserweight, rises to 29 wins, 2 defeats, 1 draw, 19 knockouts. Meanwhile, the Hayemaker suffers a devastating comeback derailment, reducing to 28 wins, 3 defeats, 26 knockouts.
The action remained competitive for the first five rounds, with both men establishing their range and testing one another in a battle of wits. Heavy shots landed. It was clear that Haye was playing the role of stalker at this point, but a hellish 6th saw the tables turn dramatically. Haye was dropped during a heated exchange, which may or may not have induced a (suspected) returning Achilles’ heel injury. Haye was dazed, clearly unsteady, but managed to escape the round despite being cornered and methodically pounded.
From that point on, Bellew grabbed hold of the fight, dominating and dishing out unprecedented damage on the Hayemaker. Moments came where Haye would defiantly swing for the fences, but no game-changing punch was to land. Bellew was simply too alert and in control to allow that to happen. To make things worse, Haye was then effectively reduced to a one-legged fighter from the 10th onwards. He bravely limped into the 11th, but his tape-strapped calf basically served as a green light for Bellew to bring down the curtain. Haye was blasted through the ropes, and mercifully saved by the towel of trainer Shane McGuigan.
Going forward, the sky seems like the limit for Bellew. His position couldn’t be stronger on the British scene, and perhaps internationally given the scalp he’s just collected. So where does Bellew go from here? Will he drop back down to defend his WBC Cruiserweight strap? Or will he capitalize on his Heavyweight momentum by going after the more glossier, lucrative Heavyweight showdowns? Retirement packages are to be found there, certainly against the likes of Matchroom stablemate Anthony Joshua.
As for Haye, his comeback has been dealt a major blow. And, at 36, with a major injury resurfacing tonight, you have to wonder whether Father Time is calling for those gloves to be hung up for good. Haye, a former undisputed Cruiserweight champ who also lifted world honors at Heavy, has been good for boxing. But a harsh dose of reality was administered tonight. And if it’s by Bellew – a first-time Heavyweight and sizeable underdog – can Haye realistically remain both safe and relevant in boxing?
With that said, I must end by applauding Haye for grinding it out tonight in a gruelling, punishing fight. The man was in peril, severely injured – kind of in a hell on earth – but kept fighting through it all. Respect.
Haye vs Bellew: Undercard
- Ohara Davies (15-0, 12 KO) proved all too much for Derry Mathews (38-12-2, 20 KO), dropping the seasoned veteran twice en route to a 3rd round Retirement. This will come as a notable scalp for Junior Welterweight climber Davies.
- Sam Eggington (20-3, 12 KO) eventually got to wiley veterain Paulie Malignaggi (36-8, 7 KO), delivering a show-closing body shot in the 9th round of their Welterweight matchup.
- Junior Middleweight prospect Ted Cheeseman (8-0, 6 KO) extended his unbeaten streak following a 78-74 Points victory over Jack Sellars (5-1-1, 1 KO).
- Katie Taylor (3-0, 2 KO) dominated and broke down Monica Gentili (6-7, 1 KO), scoring a 5th round knockdown before the referee waved off their Junior Lightweight affair.
Keith Thurman vs Danny Garcia
At the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, Kieth Thurman emerged victorious in his Welterweight unification clash with Danny Garcia. Thurman, who was awarded a Split Decision to pick up the WBA and WBC titles, took the fight on scores of 116-112 and 115-113, with Garcia notching up a 115-113. Garcia had both feet in this fight, but it’s baffling to hear that one judge saw it for Garcia here. For the record, Boxing Base tallied the action 116-112 for Thurman.
With this battle of unbeatens done and dusted, Thurman leaves with 28 wins, 22 knockouts, while Garcia picks up his first pro blemish, falling to 33 wins, 1 defeat, 19 knockouts.
This anticipated matchup was competitive mostly for the first six stanzas. Thurman came out firing in the opener, setting the tone by nailing Garcia with an overhand right, and later by an uppercut. Garcia soon settled into the fight, however, setting traps rather than forcing than action, and did find success in these early sessions. The fight was shaping up nicely, and it was clear that two elite 147-pounders were going about their business, throwing economical, dynamite-loaded punches.
If there’s one glaring difference between these guys, it’s that Thurman likes to keep on his toes, while Garcia prefers to remain flat-footed. Garcia’s planted, counterpunching style has brought him a long way. And for the first half of the fight, setting traps and holding his ground didn’t seem like an awful gameplan. Thurman was shaving rounds, and one big shot from Garcia could have easily been a game-changer.
But after Thurman closed out the 7th and 8th, it was clear that Garcia needed to be a whole lot more proactive than reactive. Thurman’s superior speed, lateral movement, and fleet-footedness wasn’t allowing Garcia to clip his man with counters. Thurman was too darn quick, darting in and out, firing his shots and escaping the pocket, leaving Garcia exactly where he found him. That pretty much sums up the tale of this fight, and it’s how it continued for the 9th and 10th.
Thurman – perhaps content he was comfortably ahead – did fight negatively in the final two rounds, however. And for that reason, they deserved to go Garcia’s way. Thurman circled the ring while being stalked by Garcia, but again, was actually plenty able to negate much of Garcia’s work thanks to that greater athleticism and faster footwork.
Thurman vs Garcia: Undercard
- Erickson Lubin (18-0, 13 KO) continued his Junior Middleweight ascent, knocking down hard-hitting Jorge Cota (25-2, 22 KO) in the 4th prior to forcing a stoppage victory.
- Andrzej Fonfara (29-4, 17 KO) got back in the win column following a 10th round stoppage of former Light Heavyweight champion Chad Dawson (34-5, 19 KO). Fonfara, returning from a 1st round TKO shocker to Joe Smith Jr last June, steers himself back towards the 175-pound mix with another gnarly, gruelling win.
So, how has Haye vs Bellew and Thurman vs Garcia impacted the Heavyweight and Welter scenes? Can David Haye realistically return to boxing? And where would you like to see headline victors Tony Bellew and Keith Thurman head next? Fire away in the comments below.