Tony Bellew and David Haye: boxing bravery that belied trash talk.By Marc Aspland, Friday March 10, 2017
In the world of sports photography there is something utterly unique about being a ringside photographer at a boxing match. Apart from the referee, cornermen and judges, the photographer is the closest to the action and every thundering punch can be felt reverberating around us.
Covering a well-hyped boxing match, be it at the O2 Arena on Saturday for Haye vs Bellew, or the many huge fights I have covered for The Times in Las Vegas and New York, the excitement reaches a fever pitch when the boxers enter the ring. All the pre-fight build up - trash talk in this case - is put aside as it simply comes down to 'mano a mano'.
The bell for the first round rang out and the atmosphere reached a crescendo. When the bell sounded for the fifth round Haye stalked a cautious Bellew, whose tactic was to outlast the older fighter. After a slip in the sixth, the scale of damage to Haye's right ankle was clear and the heavy body-blows came thick and fast to a fighter literally holding onto the ropes to survive. As Haye was pinned in the corner closest me - literally about four feet away, we were covered in a spray of sweat as each punch landed. Many in the crowd sensed a knockout and took a voyeuristic pleasure in seeing David Haye clinging on as the fight reached the tenth round.
Late in the tenth round I clearly heard Tony Bellew shout at David Haye, 'Stop now', and to his cornermen, 'Stop him now, lad'.
Then the eleventh round. Haye had been floored many times during the fight and there is a famous saying in sports photography when covering boxing, '...see the knockout punch and you have missed it!' - meaning that by the time your eye has registered the glove-on-chin knockout moment, your index finger has not pressed the shutter release button! The action is that fast.
Tony Bellew landed a series of thunderous right hand blows to David Haye who was leaning directly above me on the ropes. He slumped and then crashed through the ropes almost on top of me. Of course this is the photographic moment I had been waiting for. It could have happened in any one of the other three sides of the ring and the pictures would not show Haye falling onto the judge, clearly holding his eleventh round scorecard. As he clambered back up into the ring, with referee Harry Gibbs giving the mandatory count, I knew a defining image had been captured which summed up the whole fight.
My Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, with an incredible shutter speed of 14 frames-per-second, simply followed the unfolding drama as my EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens zoomed out to capture the whole wide-angle drama.
This single image should signify the end of an illustrious boxing career for David Haye.