LONDON (AP) — Tony Bellew might have sent David Haye into retirement after stopping the former world heavyweight champion in the fifth round in a rematch in London on Saturday.
Bellew, a cruiserweight, knocked down Haye three times before the referee brought a stop to the fight, with Haye leaning on the ropes and apparently injured with an ankle problem.
"It didn't feel that great in there tonight," said the 37-year-old Haye, who insisted before the all-British fight he would retire if he didn't beat Bellew comfortably. "I'll have to review the tapes and see what went wrong."
Bellew beat Haye in an 11th-round knockout in March 2017, but the victory came with an asterisk as Haye was clearly hampered by an Achilles injury sustained in the sixth round that night.
This time, Haye appeared to be struggling with a right ankle injury that flared up at the end of the third round, during which he was sent to the canvas twice by Bellew.
"David Haye is an amazing fighter," Bellew said of his opponent, who was the WBA heavyweight champion in 2009 having previously been world champion at cruiserweight. "I was hurt in the fight. He is a crazy fighter ... with his style, age is a factor.
"He's a better fighter, a legend of the sport. I'm just happy I won against the odds."
Bellew was in tears after the fight and said he dedicated the win to his late brother-in-law, who died last year.
"I seriously came to the ring and was willing to be finished," Bellew said. "I've cried every night in my hotel room this week."
Haye had slightly the better of the first two rounds. He connected with a sweet right in round two, only for Bellew to react by standing upright with his arms outstretched.
It began to unravel for Haye in the third round, when he was floored with a straight left and then a right — only to be saved by the bell. He clearly fought injured after that — even though he denied it in his post-fight interview — but held on for another two rounds with Bellew still wary of a counterattack.
"Tony was the better man," Haye said after his fourth loss in 32 professional fights. "I couldn't quite make it happen. Everything happens for a reason.
"I enjoyed the battle. Tony Bellew is definitely my nemesis."
The 35-year-old Bellew said he didn't know what was next for him in a turbulent boxing career that has included playing the role of world champion "Pretty" Ricky Conlan in "Creed," the seventh installment in the "Rocky" series that was released in 2015.
He used to be a doorman at a nighclub in his home city of Liverpool and worked in a pillow factory to supplement his income early in his career.
This was his 30th win in 33 fights. There won't be another one against Haye.