Reports indicate that David Haye’s retirement from boxing is all but imminent, following on from his crushing knockout defeat at the hands of Tony Bellew in the fifth round of their rematch earlier this month.

It will pull the curtain on a lucrative and stellar career which saw Haye become a two-weight world champion at cruiserweight and heavyweight and one of the biggest stars in British boxing. Meanwhile, the career of an old adversary is undergoing an extraordinary rebirth, in circumstances that are far more obscure but nonetheless remarkable.

In September 2003, a lifetime ago in boxing terms, Haye, then a six-fight novice, stepped into the ring with 21-6-1 Lolenga Mock.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo but now plying his trade as a professional in Europe, the man known as ‘Lumumba Boy’ had not won a fight in four years. He was moving up two weight divisions from his natural super-middleweight limit to fight Haye at cruiserweight. With only seven knockout wins to his name, he did not have a reputation for fight-ending power. On top of that, he was the older man by eight years.

Let that sink in: Lolenga Mock was already a twelve year fight veteran by the time he fought David Haye.

After an explosive start to proceedings from the Bermondsey man, which saw Mock dropped to the canvas in the opening round, it seemed that the mismatch was well and truly underway. Mock, however, had other ideas…

In the second round, he caught Haye on the temple with a right hand that scrambled the younger man’s senses and turned his legs to jelly, sending him crashing to the canvas. Haye made it up, but was in bad shape and barely survived the remainder of the round. However, survive he did and he was sufficiently recovered to box smart in the third round and stay away from Mock’s looping overhand rights.

In the fourth round, Mock threw caution to the wind and came out throwing hell for leather. The sense of danger was tangible as Mock’s windmill attacks sent Haye careering around the ring. Then, in his zeal Mock lunged in and was caught by a peach of an uppercut from Haye, followed by a barrage of head shots that put him down for the second time in the fight.

Despite being visibly hurt, Mock would make it to his feet at the count of four and took the mandatory eight-count, only for the referee to stop the fight much to the incredulity of Mock, the commentators and practically everyone in the Rivermead Leisure Centre. Even Haye looked embarrassed by the fight’s conclusion and later admitted it could have been allowed to continue. The rest was history for Haye, but what of the gallant loser?

Mock would never be stopped again and only once more would he lose back-to-back fights. For the next fifteen years he campaigned largely at super middleweight, winning the European title thrice and sharing the ring with the likes of Mario Veit, Charles Brewer, Gabriel Campillo, Giovanni De Carolis and Lucian Bute – all former or future world champions – scoring upsets over De Carolis and Brewer in the process.

Following a loss to then-light heavyweight prospect Erik Skoglund in 2013, Mock took two years out of the ring, returning with a bang in 2015 and putting together an impressive ten-fight winning streak in the process.

In January of this year, Mock found himself in the familiar position of “underdog” when he faced former WBA interim middleweight champion Dmitry Chudinov – fourteen years his junior – whose only previous loss had come to Chris Eubank Jr.

The Congolese veteran would outfight and outbox the younger man, pulling off the unanimous decision upset and earning himself a top 15 ranking with the WBC and, perhaps more importantly, a contract with MTK Global.

On 23rd May, it was announced that Mock, now forty six years of age, would face Avni Yildirim in a WBC super middleweight world title eliminator for the right to challenge reigning WBC champion David Benavidez, a man who incredibly was not even born when Mock turned professional.

Moreover, the Yildirim bout is a winnable fight for Mock, who like a fine wine has improved with age.

Against Haye he was the wild brawler. Against Chudinov, the assured boxer, now possessed of the ring-craft to complement the heart, determination and cast-iron chin that he has been naturally blessed with. On top of this, Mock, like the legendary Bernard Hopkins, has kept himself immaculately conditioned for a man supposedly long-past his athletic prime. Defying conventional wisdom, it was Mock who came on strong in the later rounds against Chudinov.

While one cannot overlook Yildirim – the recipient of a brutal knockout loss in the World Boxing Super Series at the hands of Chris Eubank Jr. – his obvious lack of technical boxing ability or ring generalship also cannot be ignored.

From journeyman, to gate-keeper to contender and now, possibly, a World title challenger; it reads like a boxing fairytale for Mock, but one in which the final chapter is yet to be written. When all is said and done, however, he will be far more than just the man who gave David Haye the fright of his life fifteen years ago in the Rivermead Leisure Centre.

It is a tribute to hard work and persistence, but also to how wonderfully whimsical the winds of boxing fortune can be.

Back then, you could have plausibly predicted that Haye’s career would be coming to an end right now… But who could have possibly guessed that Mock’s would only just be getting started?

Article by: Paul Lam

You can follow Paul on Twitter at: @PaulTheWallLam