Homebird over Hubris: Tony Bellew's most revealing performance came after the fight

There might have been no belts at stake during his heavyweight bout with David Haye, but Bellew won the hearts of many boxing fans as he spoke about his children after the fight

BY Cian Roche 18:56 Tuesday 7 March 2017, 18:56 7 Mar 2017

Image: Nick Potts PA Wire/PA Images

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." 

Those are the immortal words of Mike Tyson, widely regarded as one of the greatest and most vicious heavyweights of all time. 

Tyson was never the biggest heavyweight. Standing a little over 5'8, he relied on his incredible power to become the youngest world champion in history.

What is meant by those words is that you can have the most finely laid plans and the most meticulously thought-out strategy, but if you get caught and caught badly, it can all go out the window in an instant.

David Haye didn't suffer quite that during his defeat to Tony Bellew in their heavyweight bout on Saturday night. Instead, it was an Achilles injury that caused him to sacrifice his gameplan.

After suffering the injury in the sixth round, the former world champion soldiered on - essentially one-legged - and suffered a technical knockout in the 11th round.

"Just before the stoppage came, I looked at David and I said 'Stop now'," Bellew - a world champion at cruiserweight - said after the fight. "He shook his head and laughed. I said 'Please stop.'

"I'm not here to hurt people. As I said it, I looked at Shane and I said 'Stop it, lad.'

"I hit him with a right hand, his legs wobbled and I hit him with a left hook that he didn't see."

Haye collapsed and fell out of the ring. His trainer Shane McGuigan threw in the towel. The fight was over.

David Haye is knocked through the ropes by Tony Bellew during their heavyweight bout at London's O2 Arena. Image: Nick Potts PA Wire/PA Images

Many of those watching the fight commended David Haye for his bravery. And while it was incredibly brave to continue after suffering the injury, it was Bellew who showed the most heart after the fight.

Speaking to reporters, Bellew said that in winning the fight he had done what he had originally set out to do: secure his children's future.

"If it was about me I could have quit [...] after May last year at Goodison [after his WBC cruiserweight world title victory over Ilunga Makabu].

"I'm not here to hurt [Haye]. I know that he said it all through the build-up and in the camp about how he wanted to put me in hospital or leave me on a stretcher. That is never my intention... Kids need Dads and I'm just happy he gets to go home safe tonight."

The build-up was at times farcical and on occasion did cross the line. With no belt up for grabs and no real reason for the fight, the pair knew they had to sell the fight to make it a success on Pay-Per-View. They made a it spectacle, a 'grudge match' and the audience bought into it.

"I told [Haye] 'Thank you, you've helped me secure my kids future'. He said 'No, thank you for making such a great fight. I can't believe you're still standing.'" 

The Liverpudlian spoke with passion and became genuinely upset when he thought about going home to his kids with a severe injury.

"My 11-year-old kid looked at me before I left the hotel tonight on a FaceTime and said 'Just win and be safe, Dad.'

"My 11-year-old shouldn't be thinking that. It should just be his Dad goes to work and comes home at 5pm. But this is the business that I'm in. I've done what I needed to do."

And he did just that. Bellew is reported to pocket £2.8 million for his victory and in doing so, he ensures that his family will be looked after, regardless of what happens to him.

The 33-year-old said he was willing to go "as far as I had to go" to beat Haye and win the fight for his family.

A lot is said about the heart of a fighter and how far they are willing to go in the ring to win. For many, it is for the personal goal or glory of becoming a world champion. Defeating David Haye was a massive achievement for Bellew. Going up in weight to beat a former world champion is nothing to shirk, despite Haye not having a truly competitive fight in over five years. But despite all the kudos and the congratulations, Bellew's mind was elsewhere.

"I don't know what I'm going to do. What I'm waiting for is for [my family] to get off that plane... I made a promise to my kids that I'm getting home safe."

His devotion to his family and his love for his three sons drove him to his most important victory ever. A world title fight in front of his home crowd may have been a crowning moment, but knowing his family would be looked after is all he ever wanted.

"I've achieved what I got in boxing for tonight. I've just made my three kids wealthy."


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