Contrasting Cruiserweight News and “Let’s Go Champ!”

Tony Bellew

Matt Bevan (@MBevs68)

A quiet week in the sport this week, after plenty of cards over the past couple of weeks, so there isn’t really too much to talk about. But, there have been three things that have certainly captured my attention.

There have been contrasting bits of news from two British cruiserweight’s, with one securing a shot at the WBC world title and another unfortunately having to announce his retirement, albeit in an inspirational statement.

First of all, I’m glad to see Tony Bellew is getting another crack at a world title. He’ll take on the highly rated Ilunga Makabu for the WBC belt, after Grigory Drozd, who is also considered to be the lineal champion, withdrew due to another injury.

No fighter likes winning a vacant title, as they want to beat the best to prove they’re the best, but for Bellew it doesn’t come much tougher than Makabu. However, isn’t that how it should be? Winning a world title shouldn’t be easy after all.

To say Bellew is a polarising figure would be an understatement. I have had nothing but good dealings with “The Bomber” whenever I have interviewed him and his knowledge of the sport and his potential opponents is excellent.

But he definitely rubs some people up the wrong way, with plenty hoping he once again falls short at the top level. He should be commended for picking as hard a route as possible to reach the top, as a win over Makabu could set up a win with new Champion in Recess Drozd. There aren’t many tougher fights out there in a packed cruiserweight division.

There was a deal in place last year to fight IBF titleholder Victor Ramirez, which fell through after Ovill McKenzie drew with the Argentine, which would have been a much more straight forward test. Ramirez faces WBA champion Denis Lebedev in Russia in May, so I doubt he’ll hold on that belt much longer.

So it’s Makabu, with June 4th at the home of Bellew’s beloved Everton, Goodison Park being mooted as the date and venue. I wish him all the best and hope he can pull it off. He certainly deserves his opportunity and hopefully it will be third time lucky for “The Bomber”.

Ola Afolabi: The Forgotten Cruiserweight?

The other cruiser in the news is Ola Afolabi. If you wanted a man to fight anyone, anywhere and anytime, then Ola was your man. The Londoner was almost the forgotten man at the weight, but after his last performance in defeat to Marco Huck, he has called it a day by posting an inspirational statement.

Afolabi’s name won’t mean a great deal to a lot of new fans coming into the sport, but it should. This is a man who literally built himself up from nothing, with no experience and became one of the top fighters in a jam-packed cruiserweight division.

He is largely forgotten by British fans due to only fighting here once, a 9th round stoppage win in Manchester over Enzo Maccarinelli for the Interim WBO title, but if you don’t know much about him, look up some fights on YouTube and read his retirement statement and see what you’ve missed out on.

Here’s a copy of the statement:–102413

Prospects enter boxing all the time with dreams of becoming a world champion. The top amateurs will be handed big contracts with the top promoters and carefully matched on their way up to hopefully achieving their dreams.

Those that didn’t have the storied amateur career, will be given a chance to see how many tickets they can sell and see if a lesser promoter takes them on. If they sell enough, they could be given a chance, whilst those who can’t sell, could make a living of going on the road and fighting out of the away corner.

For Ola Afolabi, it’s fair to say he had it harder than most, starting with no experience and stumbling into a gym to “have a go”. He didn’t do this in London either. He did in the USA, which made it even tougher. There are no Eastern European journeymen who will roll over in the States.

If you look at a lot of Brits records, there are opponents with losing records aplenty early on. Afolabi fought three guys with losing records over the course of his whole career, as well as three debutants and another with a 1-1 record in his early days.

He also had a three year gap due to a nasty injury and missed out on his prime. To say it was a tough career is putting it lightly. Ola was on the wrong end of bad scorecards, especially against Huck, but he still carried on and took the toughest fights out there.

How many cruiserweight’s do you honestly think would choose to go to Russia and face Rakhim Chakhkiev, a former Olympic champion. Not many. Yet, Afolabi went and knocked him out for all to see in his own backyard to win the IBO title he subsequently lost to Huck.

He did blow hot and cold more than a thermos flask, but when he was on and fancied the job, there weren’t many who could live with him, without the judges’ help. But, when he was off, he could be awful. But, that was all part of it, you never knew what you were going to get.

I loved watching Afolabi fights and he will be missed in the division now he has called it a day. If he had got the rub of the green a bit more often, he could and should have had a lot more accolades to his name. All the best in retirement Ola.

“Let’s Go Champ”

If you have been watching boxing the past few years, you’ll know that this catchphrase can only belong to Shannon Briggs. The former heavyweight champion has been campaigning for a big fight with Wladimir Klitschko for a while, but has turned his attention to British shores.

The YouTube videos he put on with him terrorising Klitschko were hilarious, as were his antics at press conferences and ringside during the former champion’s fights.

But, with Tyson Fury’s win last November, David Haye’s return and Anthony Joshua’s emergence as a contender, Briggs is here, screaming “Let’s Go Champ” to all in the vicinity, providing those around with tons of entertainment.

Should Briggs be in the ring? Debatable. Does he deserve a big fight? No. But is he getting people talking about him? Yes. Who knows, he may well be back in London on May 21st in the opposite corner to David Haye. Imagine that press conference and buildup!