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“To age truly was to suffer the ultimate treason, that of one’s body against oneself.”
David Haye has come to know that betrayal.
Revenge or repeat?
That was the narrative ahead of Haye’s grudge rematch against Tony Bellew at the O2 on Saturday.
Haye looked a portrait of confidence and focus as he made his way slowly to the ring, accompanied by ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’. The former two-weight world champion even wore white headphones and prowled around the ring predatorily as Bellew made his own ringwalk.
‘Hayemaker’ performed well in the first two rounds, catching 33 year old Bellew with a sharp right at the end of the first. He landed another big right in the second, but Bellew raised his arms in defiance in response.
Haye wanted to go back to basics after his 11th round KO at the hands of Bellew 14 months ago, but it was soon evident that the 37 year old’s best years are locked firmly in the past.
Things fell apart for the Londoner in the third.
He was floored twice in quick succession by the brilliant Bellew, and did well to survive the round under intense pressure from the Liverpudlian.
Haye showed bravery and determination, but the power and pace which made him so dangerous have clearly deserted him, and his troublesome leg injuries may have resurfaced during the fight. He srurvived the fourth, but the end was nigh.
It was Bellew who looked the bigger puncher, and he sent Haye sprawling with a vicious shot in the fifth.
To his credit, Haye climbed back to his feet for the third time, but the referee intervened seconds later to put a stop to proceedings as Bellew pummeled his rival on the ropes.
Before the bout, Haye had claimed that only a dominant victory over Bellew would convince him to prolong his 16 year professional career.
Afterwards, he humbly admitted he lost to the better man in his post-match interview, but did not state whether he will retire or not.
“I don’t know,” he claimed. “It didn’t feel that great in there tonight.
“I’ll have to review the tapes and see exactly what went wrong, but Tony Bellew boxed a fantastic fight.”
The Bermondsey native had once claimed that he would retire on his 31st birthday, but the lure of a return to the ring proved too much in 2012, when he donned his gloves once more to demolish Dereck Chisora.
A second retirement followed, but Haye made another return to the sport in 2016.
“It’s sad to see how at 37, nearly 38, he’s still fighting on, trying to capture what he once had,” Tony Bellew’s trainer Dave Coldwell said ahead of Saturday’s rematch.
I left the O2 on Saturday night feeling saddened by the sight of his diminished powers, having entered the arena hoping to see the David Haye of old.
The time, however, has come for Haye’s third and final retirement.
“There is only one answer about his future: David Haye should retire. 100 per cent,” Carl Froch said after the fight.
“Straight after the fight, I just went to see his mum and dad and told them to tell him to do the right thing and finish.”
The Londoner may regret his failure to unify the heavyweight division by beating Vladimir Klitschko, but he has no hope of unifying it now. If he cannot withstand Bellew, what hope would he possibly have against the likes of Anthony Joshua (who was watching from ringside) or Deontay Wilder?
The years, and the injuries, have taken their toll.
Haye looks in excellent shape, but his body has betrayed him time and time again.
Bellew revealed that he urged his opponent to retire after Saturday’s bout, and the Scouser also acknowledged that it will be Haye who is remembered as the better boxer.
Haye has achieved things that many boxers could only dream of. Evander Holyfield is the only other fighter to win world titles at both cruiserweight and heavyweight.
He deserves to be remembered as one of Britain’s great boxers, but the time has come for him to walk away.