Frontline diary: Repeat not revenge

Paul Zanon
07/05/2018 11:00pm

Paul Zanon was ringside at the O2 for Boxing Monthly as Tony Bellew blew out David Haye, Joe Joyce wore a sombrero and James Tennyson and Martin J Ward went toe to toe...

Is he a natural heavyweight or a blown-up cruiserweight? Does he belong in the same ring with someone of David Haye’s pedigree, a former two-weight world champion? These were some of the questions floating around about Tony Bellew in advance of his first encounter, in March 2017, against Bermondsey’s David 'Hayemaker' Haye.

If winning the fight wasn’t enough, theories then started to surface that a fit and healthy Haye would still flatten Bellew. In fact, in the first five rounds of their first encounter (pre-Haye Achilles tendon rupture), the general consensus was that Bellew had only been granted one round and his inability to get Haye out of there for a further five rounds, was in itself evidence that he was somewhat ‘lucky’. All these things considered, the rematch on 5 May 2018, aptly named ‘Revenge or Repeat,’ was certainly awaited with bated breath.

However, as with all shows, an undercard build-up (along with a dose of Sweet Caroline), is always a necessity. First up on Macthroom's ten-card bill was Cambridge favourite Jordan Gill against last-minute stand-in, and relative novice, Ireland’s Carl McDonald. Inevitably, Gill won the six-round featherweight contest 60-54, extending his unbeaten run to 20-0, while McDonald added his second defeat (3-2) to his five-fight career.

Next up was Kody Davies from Wales, against Przemyslaw Gorgon from Poland in a light-heavyweight contest, scheduled for four rounds. Unfortunately, for Gorgon, the contest never matured past the first session, due to a crunching left hook to the body from Davies. The Welshman won by first-round TKO and extended his record to 4-0.

The third contest of the evening was between Luke Campbell MBE and former two-time super featherweight Midlands Area champion Troy James. The contest, which was fought at super lightweight, was in all fairness, a mismatch. It served the purpose of keeping Campbell active, but the natural size and ability rift was huge. Props to James for stepping in at the last minute to step up to the plate against a bigger opponent with serious form, but it was never going to go the distance.

James was put down in the second, third and fifth rounds. Each time, Campbell accurately unloaded with different combinations to the body and head and by two minutes and 18 seconds of the fifth, the referee had seen enough and the contest was brought to a halt.

The next fight could only be classified as, ‘serious value for money.’ A true barnburner. The super featherweight European (EBU), Commonwealth and WBA International straps were on the line, as unbeaten Martin J Ward took on dangerman, James Tennyson (21-2), over 12 scheduled championship rounds.

Ding, ding, round one. Both fighters set off at a furious pace, with Ward the busier. Nothing changed in the second session, with the referee pretty much redundant by this stage. That was until Ward let rip with a left hook to the body in the dying seconds of the round, which dropped Tennyson.

Saved by the bell, Tennyson came at a monstrous Ward at the beginning of the third, who was intent on finishing the fight early. More slashing body shots, hooks and uppercuts, culminating in Tennyson sporting a bloodied nose. Despite a teak tough punishment absorbance from Tennyson, it looked like he was simply delaying the inevitable. Or was he?

Soon after the bell rang for the fourth, Tennyson came out like a modern day Jake LaMotta, intent on bringing the fight to Ward. Despite trying to fight fire with fire, Ward was evidently tired from the previous nine minutes and became open to a very potent straight right from Tennyson. The very same punch landed with success a number of times during the round and carried right through to the fifth, by which stage, Ward was in evident trouble.

With little prompting, Tennyson went to work on his tired and wounded opponent and unleashed his hammer of a straight right one more time, this time knocking down Ward. Despite getting to his feet, a matter of seconds later, the fight was called to a sensible halt by the referee. What a turnaround from Tennyson – and what a fight!

The fifth contest of the evening was at light heavyweight, between Croydon’s endearing Joshua Buatsi (5-0) and France’s Stephane Cuevas, who boasted a record of 8-1-3. From the opening bell, every punch that could technically be thrown, Buatsi threw it – and landed. When Cuevas did try to have a go in the second session, Buatsi countered beautifully.

By the fifth round, I got the impression that either the corner had said, ‘Time to go home,’ or Buatsi decided he fancied an early shower. Either way, he unloaded with straight right after straight right, until the referee had seen enough and stepped in. Buatsi extended his unbeaten record to 6-0.

Fifth of May, or Cinco De Mayo as it’s referred to in Mexico, has a more dormant presence this side of the pond. Well, that was until 6'6" Joe ‘The Juggernaut’ Joyce rocked up to the ring, for the sixth contest of the night, wearing a poncho and sombrero, decked out in the Mexican colours. Intent on making a statement outside of the ring, the affable Joyce made an even bigger one inside it.

Up against Jamaica’s Lenroy Thomas for the heavyweight Commonwealth strap, Joyce unleashed barrage after barrage, dropping the Jamaican in the last few seconds of the first session. With that wide-eyed, ‘How bleeding hard is this kid hitting me look?’ Thomas lasted until 2mins and 36 seconds of the second round, before a left hook at the end of another flurry, brought the contest to a premature end. Four wins, four knockouts and now a Commonwealth title. We can’t ask any more from Joyce at this stage.

Next up was Paul Butler against Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez for the IBF bantamweight championship. Butler, who weighed in 3lbs over the bantam limit, would not have been eligible to walk away with the strap, if he’d have won. However, after one minute of the first round, it was obvious that he wouldn’t have to cross that bridge. Rodriguez unloaded a very rapid left hook to the body, followed by a left hook to the head, which put Butler down for an eight count. Twenty seconds later, Butler was down again for a count, but in his defence, it was a slip.

The tone and pace of that first round pretty much dictated the landscape of the fight. Butler struggled to land his punches and find his range and timing. Rodriguez, on the other hand, put on a near faultless performance, standing fairly flat on with his stance, looking to load up with knockout power. Unfortunately, for the Puerto Rican, the fight went the distance, in what turned out to be a dull affair. The judges were spot on with their scores of 118-108, 120-106 (twice). Butler incurred his second loss (26-2), while Rodriguez extended to 17-0, in addition to becoming world champion.

The eighth contest of the evening had the potential for an old school dust up, as super middleweight southpaws, John Ryder and Jamie Cox collided. From the opening session, you kind of got the feeling the contest wasn’t going to go the distance. Both men are heavy punchers, both were not in favour of holding and both were wanting to get back into title contention.

Second round, it was Ryder that made the opening statement. In fact, the left hook to Cox’s head turned out to be the final statement, as Cox didn’t make the count. Despite protesting that he was counted out prematurely, on closer inspection, Cox didn’t come off his knee until a fraction before the count of ‘ten.’ One would have to assume the clubbing hook had scrambled his senses and he was trying to generate as much time from the allocated seconds, but I believe Ryder would have made the decision final very soon after, if the contest had continued.

Two nice guys in boxing and Cox will come again. A consummate professional who is a fantastic role model as a person for the current up and coming crop of fighters.

With a few of the fights finishing early, the floater was thrown into the mix, between Money Powell IV (cracking name) and Mark Krammerstodter (impressive surname). The super welterweight contest was scheduled for four rounds and pretty much lasted the duration, with Powell doing what he wanted, when he wanted, with silky smooth moves, footwork and precision. Lacking in power a little but, nonetheless, impressive. The contest came to a halt after a flurry from Powell, extending the Alabama resident’s record to 7-0.

After a good sing-a-long to ‘Sweet Caroline,’ led by none other than microphone king, Michael Buffer, it was time for the main event. Haye vs Bellew 2.

The levels of confidence from both fighters was starkly different. Haye entered the ring looking a little preoccupied. Any doubt of his confidence was confirmed when Bellew made his ring walk and Haye put on a pair of headphones to mute any music or cheers for the Liverpudlian.

The first and second rounds, Bellew’s jab was sharp and accurate, and he was willing to trade in spurts, but he was marginally on the back foot... with just cause. He was scoping out Haye and had obviously seen something in those two rounds, which he was ready to exploit in the third. And exploit it he did.

As Haye started to unload with a heavy-handed combination, Bellew fought fire with fire, went toe to toe, connected, forced Haye to back up to the ropes, at which point, Bellew connected with a straight right, left hook combination, which put Haye on to the canvas. A brave Haye went into battle mode straight after the eight count and was caught with a big straight right from Bellew a second before the bell rang for the end of the third session. Saved, or perhaps, prolonged, by the bell.

From here on, it was one-way traffic. A composed Bellew unloaded carefully on a wounded Haye, seeking and destroying him at will. Jab, left hook to the head, straight right to the head. Not in that particular order, but those were the punches of choice from Bellew and very few of them missed from this point forth.

Despite the absence of a knockdown in the fourth, Bellew delivered in the fifth, to end any arguments. As Haye plodded towards Bellew, just past the midway point of the round, Bellew detonated a huge left hook to Haye’s head which took his legs away from him. Despite a brave attempt to continue, the referee did the right thing by intervening between the fighters and saving Haye from any further punishment.

Where do the respective duo go now? Haye should probably retire. Any further similar fights will damage the sterling work he did during his glory years. Bellew has options, but needs to tread carefully (something he’s never done). The likes of Joshua, Wilder, Fury etc, one would assume are simply too big.

But where would Bellew (want to) fit in, within the heavyweight division, if not at world level? Post-fight he called out Andre Ward. Let’s see how far that pans out. As for cruiserweight – it’s become a very tasty division since Bellew's move to heavy. The likes of Usyk, Gassiev, Breidis, Dorticos would all provide the 35-year-old Bellew with tough fights, but the question is – does he want to drop down to that division again? Does he need to? What more does he want to achieve in boxing?

With Tony Bellew – who knows. All we do know is that he defied the odds twice against Haye and only a fool would bet against him again when he makes a future decision