Bellew gets his arm raised.
But Saturday's bout at London's O2 Arena rarely looked like lasting as long.
The pair had become as well-known for their pre-match dust-ups and verbal taunts as their boxing but there was no denying the comprehensive manner of Bellew's second successive victory over the 37-year-old Haye.
Such a revelation only makes Bellew's achievement, at a time of personal adversity, all the more impressive and talk has immediately turned to who he will fight next, or whether he too will be retiring.
Bellew had previously said: "I like the Tyson Fury fight".
He said: "I just want to say I lost my brother-in-law in August and I swear to God he was watching me and he was there with me tonight for every punch, Ashley that was for you". But speed decreases with age. Haye again rose to his feet and survived the round. But behind the braggadocio lies a supreme talent who cares deeply about boxing, one who's razor-sharp tongue was matched by his laser-like fists. Then, Bellew scored two monstrous knockdowns. "I will have to review it", he said.More news: President Trump's Enthusiasm for NRA
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To overcome an opponent enjoying the finest run of his career, and in his first fight since appointing Ismael Salas as his new trainer, he needed to swiftly begin to time Bellew before the likelihood of him tiring after the opening rounds.
"When he fought [Mikkel] Kessler for the second time and I still haven't had that phone call".
"I wish Tony [Bellew] nothing but the best". He boxed a great game-plan, and I couldn't quite get to it. Everything happens for a reason. I enjoyed the havoc. Bellew's my nemesis. We are of similar stature. Styles make fights. He is BHop [Bernard Hopkins, who retired at 51 in 2016] but 20 years younger. Financially he is sorted and he will tell you his greatest night was at Goodison Park, but on top of that, who else is there for him to box?
"I just know I can beat Andre Ward".
Bellew has set his sights on fighting fellow Briton Tyson Fury and American Andre Ward after his 30th win from 33 fights. "If you didn't know - I'm half Scouse". I want the referee to count to 10. I am a walking Super Series. "I need a megastar". He also changed trainers. It came in the first round but fizzled out by the third. Haye landed a few shots with the right hand which resulted in Bellew shrugging his shoulders in response in a sign of confidence.
Should Haye and Bellew both retire? Rising unsteadily it appeared that Haye's legs had gone from underneath him.
Haye took some severe punishment in the fourth round, and he seemed unable to avoid the punches.