By Paul Mason
It was a weekend full of talking points in the sport, with massive bills either side of the pond. The O2 Arena, London hosted the big Bellew v Haye rematch, while Las Vegas was the scene as Gennady Golovkin carried on regardless without Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Here I review the major talking points from the weekend’s action.
Bellew Repeats As Haye Faces Retirement
I was in the band of people on Saturday night that believed if a fit and healthy David Haye turned up at the O2 Arena, then he would be able to hold off Tony Bellew and have enough in his ageing tank to get the win. In reality, Bellew put in a stellar performance, knocking down Haye three times en route to a fifth-round stoppage. As much credit as I give Bellew for the repeat win, I couldn’t help that a lot of it owed to Haye being exposed. The body and weight were on the money, but as the fight unravelled, his punch resistance, movement and power had gone. The two knockout wins he enjoyed in 2016 against haplessly overmatched opposition were obviously a smokescreen. Haye looked disorganised and a shadow of his peak best against Bellew, and there were definitely no excuses to hide behind this time.
A telling statement from George Groves’ Instagram account pretty much said it all. When Haye was at his apex, his then trainer Adam Booth devised a plan to have Haye out of the sport by the age of 30.
Groves said: “When I first joined this rat race it was under The Hayemaker banner”. “David was 28 years old”. “Our trainer would tell me of their ‘smash and grab’ mindset for the sport, with each boxing decision weighed up for its dollar to brain cell ratio and an exit strategy for him at 30 years of age”. “I thought that’s a great idea… Henry Ford said “The air is full of good ideas” but some ideas are just full of hot air. “David was kind and generous to me when I turned pro. I learnt a lot from him in the early part of my career”. “I won’t forget that”. “I hope he finds his new calling, I hope he’s happy, I hope he never decides to fight again”.
The fact that Haye made his comeback, without Booth, tells you everything you need to know about Booth’s thoughts on if Haye still had the abilities needed to reach the top once again.
It surely has to now be retirement for the Bermondsey man. Why he hasn’t already announced this is beyond me, it was clear to see that he is a “shot” fighter and has earned his right to retire. There is serious danger that he could badly tarnish his legacy if he chose to fight on, and that is unthinkable. A WBA Heavyweight Champion, as well as a WBC, WBA and WBO Cruiserweight Champion, means that Haye already had nothing to prove before his 2016 comeback.
For Bellew though, the next step is surely fraught with danger. He called out the recently retired Andre Ward post fight, and this could be a massive risk if he was to be able to tempt “SOG” out of his self-imposed exile. The only other options at Heavyweight are Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury, as Bellew has stated he doesn’t want to fight Anthony Joshua. If he chose to return to Cruiserweight then only the winner of the World Boxing Super Series would suffice, and that wouldn’t be guaranteed to be big bucks. The finalists, Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev would be more than dangerous opponents to Bellew. The reward would be great, with all four major Titles to aim for, but the risk would be even greater.
I believe Bellew’s best option is retirement. He has been a WBC Champion and also British, Commonwealth and European Champion, and there is nothing left to prove for the likeable Scouser.
Butler Fails Weight And Rodriguez Assignment
When Ryan Burnett vacated the IBF Bantamweight Title, it was in the notion that this would be passed down the Matchroom chain, with Paul Butler handed the opportunity to become a two time Champion. In a surprise to most as a majority career Super Flyweight, Butler missed weight for his bout with Emmanuel Rodriguez by nearly three pounds. It was a shocking miscalculation, and Butler didn’t even try to shed the excess in order to qualify to fight for the vacant Title.
Rodriguez was little known other than amateur background, but he put in a dominant performance on the night, dropping Butler twice in the opener, before pounding out a wide points win to lift the belt in his eighteenth paid contest.
Where Butler goes from here is a tricky one. He has stated that the weight disaster was just an honest mistake, and that Bantamweight is his chosen weight class. But the problem now lies in what options are on the table. As Butler has fought for and won World honours at Bantam, he won’t take kindly to stepping back down into domestic and European class.
What is also a major setback for Butler, is the imminent announcement of a new World Boxing Super Series tournament at Bantamweight, which will likely see most of the World Titles held up for at least a year. Rumours are swirling that Rodriguez, WBA Regular Champion Burnett and WBO Champion, Zolani Tete are already confirmed, which is a mouth-watering prospect. The vacant WBC Title is due to be contested by two unbeaten fighters in Frenchman Nordine Oubaali (14-0) and Tassana Sanpattan (46-0) of Thailand next month, so you would presume the winner will also be in the tournament.
Butler may have to bide his time and go the European route for now, unless he is included in the Super Series, which seems unlikely.
Rejuvanated Ryder Continues Progress
One man who didn’t let a chance of progress pass him by was Islington’s John Ryder. After defeats to Nick Blackwell, Rocky Fielding and Jack Arnfield, Ryder needed a win and a performance to match in order to salvage his once promising career. He did just that, and derailed Jamie Cox’s immediate ambitions, making two losses in three starts for the Swindon man, following his spirited shootout defeat to George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series in October 2017.
In what was a refreshingly respectful build up between the two men, Ryder landed a right hook to the temple that dazed and confused Cox in only the second round. He sat out the referees count, but mistimed the count of ten, and was counted out by referee Ian John Lewis.
Ryder will now go on and potentially challenge for World honours, with WBA regular Champion, Tyron Zeuge, always a target for many a Matchroom Super Middleweight. For Cox though, I don’t believe this to be the end of the road like the broadcasters were trying to spin the fight. He can come back stronger for the defeat. With Rocky Fielding currently holding the British and Commonwealth Titles, but with aspirations of facing Zeuge himself, Cox may find himself in line to fight for those Titles or Fielding himself soon.
“GGG” Moves On Without “Canelo”
Usually, when an opponent pulls out of a super fight, the whole show is shelved. Sometimes the fit boxer will continue with a fight, but the fans will see through the inferior new opponent and turn their back on the contest. But credit to Gennady Golovkin, who carried on regardless in the face of his original dance partner, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez failing a drug test before their scheduled rematch.
“GGG” still brought the “Big Drama Show” to Las Vegas, hammering late sub Vanes Matirosyan to defeat inside two rounds. Golovkin dazzled with stunning combinations, and closed the show impressively, regardless of opponent.
The big question now is who will be in the opposite corner for the Kazakh’s next assignment. Odds are heavily in favour of a money spinning rematch with Alvarez, likely in September. Failing that, should Billy Joe Saunders come through his WBO Middleweight Title clash with Martin Murray at the O2 on June 23, then this could me a more than viable second choice. An undisputed Middleweight Champion would only be good for the sport.