London: Tony Bellew has put himself in contention for a shot at world heavyweight champions Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.
Bellew, the WBC world cruiserweight champion, stepped up a division to stop British rival David Haye in the 11th round of a non-title heavyweight fight that took a dramatic turn in the sixth round when Haye suffered a suspected Achilles injury.
It was an upset win that leaves Bellew with plenty of options after Haye was stopped for the first time since 2004 in his third career defeat.
Hearn believes Bellew’s future is now at heavyweight and is confident of making home fights against either American Wilder, the WBC champion, or New Zealand’s WBO title-holder Parker, who defends his title against Briton Hughie Fury on May 6.
“He’s just beaten one of the best heavyweights in the world so do you want to go back down to cruiserweight or fight Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker?” Hearn said at a press conference after the fight at London’s O2 Arena.
“I think we could bring Wilder of Parker to the UK. This fight has done great numbers and they aren’t going to get that money anywhere else.
“He’s beaten one of the best heavyweights in the world, so as far as I’m concerned he’s earned his shot.”
But Bellew, 34, insisted he had not decided on his next move, which included the option of a rematch against Haye in Liverpool, possibly at his beloved Everton football club’s ground, Goodison Park.
“We’ll evaluate everything on Monday morning, but the salt and pepper are on my side of the table next time,” said Bellew, who seemed to rule out an immediate return to cruiserweight.
“I’ve just come down to his backyard, now he can come to mine.”
From the sixth round, Haye was left dragging his injured right foot behind him and was an easy target for Bellew, who showed no mercy, flooring him in the seventh and then sending him crashing through the ropes in the 11th prompting trainer Shane McGuigan to throw in the towel.
After the fight, Haye went to hospital for treatment on his injured ankle.
“The biggest one-punching heavyweight couldn’t put a dent in me,” said Bellew.
“Just before the stoppage I said to David ‘Stop now’, because I’m not here to hurt people. I looked at [Haye’s trainer] Shane McGuigan and said ‘Stop it’.
“He has got a great chin and took right hands all night long but he didn’t see the left hook and it made him collapse through the ropes.”
Haye had threatened to “hospitalise” Bellew amid a series of pre-fight comments and had promised to end his British rival’s career.
“I did not expect him to have the chin and the durability that he has,” said Haye after the fight.
“Bellew, by far, was the better fighter tonight. I believe I’m more gifted but he had a bigger heart tonight.
“He took my best shots, got back up, and put me down. I’m at his mercy — I can’t think of world titles now.”
Haye last held a world championship heavyweight belt in 2011.
The Londoner had hoped for a win to set up a shot at the winner of Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko, who meet at Wembley Stadium in London for the IBF and WBA world titles on April 29.