London (AP) — Tony Bellew caused a huge upset by moving up two weights and stopping David Haye in the 11th round in a gripping, all-British heavyweight fight at the O2 Arena on Saturday.
Haye, in the third bout of his boxing comeback, appeared to injure his right Achilles as he skipped back in the sixth round but continued despite being an apparently easy target.
Bellew, the WBC cruiserweight champion, showed patience in picking his moment to finish off Haye and the end came with 53 seconds left of the 11th with a flurry of punches that sent his rival through the ropes. Haye climbed back into the ring, but his corner threw in the towel.
The 36-year-old Haye had his eye on title fights with the likes of IBF champion Anthony Joshua, but that appears doubtful after the former WBA heavyweight champion’s third loss in a 31-fight career.
Haye refused to blame his injury for the loss, instead praising an opponent whom he had abused with a stream of insults — some extremely distasteful — in the build-up.
“Tony was a great fighter. I wanted to do a demolition job but this guy has the heart of a lion,” Haye said. “I’ve knocked out people a lot bigger and a lot stronger with a lot less.
“I didn’t expect him to have the chin and durability that he had. I gave it my best shot and my best wasn’t good enough tonight.”
Bellew (29-2-1, 19 KO) was giving up 11 pounds and fighting his first professional bout as a heavyweight.
“I am the champion of the misfits,” said Bellew, who is from Liverpool in northern England, “and tonight I have taken my glory.”
Bellew said he saw Haye’s right leg buckle and urged Haye and his corner to stop the fight.
After all the acrimony and bitterness in the build-up, the pair linked arms after the fight and Bellew kissed the head of Haye.
Haye said he wanted a rematch. Bellew said he will assess his options.