Tony Bellew: The journey from demolishing David Haye to being one of boxing’s purest voices

The ‘Bomber’ was adored by boxing fans at the end of his career and his transition into punditry has been a great success…

Tony Bellew's career as a professional boxer was one of two halves. Until 2012, he was promoted by Frank Warren.

This relationship came to an end in the aftermath of his controversial defeat to domestic rival Nathan Cleverly.

Bellew made his intentions clear that he wished to link up with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing. This was a messy transition, as after a court battle involving Warren, this switch was confirmed.

The young and hungry Hearn was keen to make a statement to step out from the shadow of his father - Barry Hearn.

His relationship with Bellew bore fruit and the Liverpudlian proved to be one of his greatest success stories as a boxing promoter.

It was not all plain sailing, as he suffered a damaging defeat - the second of his career - against WBC and The Ring light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson at the end of 2013.

He rebuilt his career from his point as he avenged his loss to Cleverly in 2014. This time the latter was beaten by split decision.

World success and Haye rivalry

Tony Bellew (left) and David Haye during the Heavyweight Contest bout at the O2 Arena, London

Bellew was preparing to challenge for the world cruiserweight title and this opportunity came at Goodison Park, the home of his beloved Everton football club.

Bellew faced Ilunga Makaba - who looks set to face Canelo Alvarez in 2022 - for the WBC cruiserweight title.

The Bomber's career was building to this point and as his popularity was increasing, the time came to fight at Goodison.

The emotionally charged night stands out as a memorable one in Matchroom Boxing's history.

Bellew always wore his heart on his sleeve and if his emotions were to get the better of him at any night, it was going to be against Makabu.

He got caught by the Congolese fighter in the opening round and got knocked down.

The hometown fighter was able to recover though and the bout ended after a breathless third round. Bellew unloaded on Makabu before he floored him with a flush left hand.

Jubilant scenes ensued around Goodison Park as Bellew took in all of the love from the crowd…

Bellew then demolished BJ Flores, which set up a grudge match at heavyweight against David Haye.

While no titles were on the line, his fights with the 'Hayemaker' and the feud between the pair is arguably what Bellew is most remembered for.

Things soon turned personal and on fight night, Bellew pulled off a major upset as he beat Haye, who suffered an ankle injury in the sixth round.

The former world heavyweight champion showed great bravery but he was ultimately stopped in the eleventh.

Many tuned in expecting Bellew to be knocked out, so the boxing fan base were left shocked at the result.

A rematch always felt inevitable and after over a year of waiting, Bellew-Haye II took place in May 2018.

Bellew triumphed again, but his victory was even more convincing. He stopped Haye in the fifth after he was downed three times in the early rounds.

Given his fighting style and acumen, Haye was the fan favourite going into these clashes. But the build-up and subsequent performances of both men turned things on its head as Bellew earned the respect of the public.

This was richly deserved given what he had achieved in the sport, as he far surpassed people's expectations of him.

Chasing greatness

His wife - Rachael Roberts - and Hearn were keen for him to retire after he dispatched Haye for a second time. They were of the view that he did not have anything else to achieve.

But Bellew eyed one more fight before he hung up his gloves. That was against Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed cruiserweight titles. Bellew was Usyk's first defence of his four belts after he beat Murat Gassiev to win the inaugural cruiserweight World Boxing Super Series.

Usyk - who won a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics - was already a highly esteemed fighter and few gave Bellew a chance of winning.

Usyk

The Ukrainian looked near unbeatable at cruiserweight, but Bellew fared well as he won the first few rounds. The bout turned around the halfway stage as Bellew struggled to keep up with Usyk's relentlessness and his classy footwork/head movement.

He grew weary in the eighth before he was stopped via a spiteful left hand that made Bellew fall through the ropes. As expected, Bellew announced his retirement in the aftermath. He achieved all that he could have dreamed of in the sport.

He became a world champion in his backyard and he had great fight nights against the likes of Cleverly, BJ Flores and Haye. People recognised his qualities by the end as he grew to become one of the most popular British fighters of his time.

His wins over Haye and the way that he hung in there with Usyk showed how good Bellew was in his prime.

He always seemed to be the underdog but there was more to his game than just being a big puncher. You only have to compare his showing against Usyk to Anthony Joshua's performance to see that!

Few would be able to match Bellew's pure passion for boxing and he is a student of the game. His love for boxing brought about concerns that he would retire too late, which could see him suffer lasting damage.

Thankfully though, Bellew stepped away at the right time and he has turned his focus to punditry.

Boxer to analyst

Hearn and Bellew

Since retiring, he has been a regular feature on Sky Sports and now on DAZN with Matchroom.

The 39-year-old has really grown into the role over the past few years. He is improving with each show that passes and he is a great asset to the fledgling DAZN brand in the UK.

Bellew does not mince his words. He says it how it is and he is not filtered like most pundits are.

This ensures that you hang off his every word as he is a pure voice, whose expertise adds weight to his punditry.

As also seen by his appearances on SAS: Who Dares Wins and A League of Their Own, his endearing personality only increases his popularity.

Bellew's journey in boxing has been extraordinary and he can take a lot of pride from what he has achieved.

The Bomber should be a poster boy for young British fighters given the way that he carries himself. He works hard, puts his family first above anything else and for this; he warrants all the success that has come his way…

Read more: Exclusive - Anthony Crolla weighs in on Anthony Joshua's next move

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