Fresh off the back of, what on paper would appear to be, a career best win, Tony Bellew sat in a post fight press conference having to justify exactly that.
Bellew sealed a split decision points victory over Welshman Nathan Cleverly to reverse a 2011 loss which seems to have weighed heavily on the ‘Bomber’s’ shoulders for three years. Bellew fending off criticism seems like a common trend recently.
So why did Bellew have to justify his method of victory? Sure it wasn’t a pretty performance but it was very effective and (for me) it was emphatic. Despite the judges scorecards I scored the fight very wide for Bellew as Cleverly’s work, even in the early rounds seemed ineffective.
Bellew appeared very confident in the build up to this fight but he is never backwards in coming forwards when it comes to answering criticism from unwanted sources and has unleashed verbal assaults on both Steve Bunce and the Boxing Asylum in the last few weeks. And I think they have merely been the straw(s) that broke the ‘Bomber’s’ back.
Tony Bellew has been an underdog in boxing ever since I can remember: I first clapped eyes on a young Bellew around 2004 in Everton Park Sports Centre, entering the ring in the ABA’s representing Rotunda ABC up against a seasoned veteran from Kirkdale ABC (I believe his name was Mick Carroll but don’t quote me on that). Bellew surprised the crowd by winning his bout and went on to win the ABA’s. He won it a further two times (three in total) and quickly collected a reputation as a concussive puncher along the way. However, despite his success Bellew never really seemed to be held in the same esteem as his Rotunda team mates from around that time, with the likes of the Smith brothers, Joe McNally and Joe Selkirk all coming through the ranks at similar times and he never seemed to shake that underdog tag. He was snubbed numerous times by the selectors for the national squad to represent England/GB, most notably in the Commonwealth games, and eventually turned professional having never really fulfilled his potential as an amateur.
The people within the Rotunda always seemed to rate Bellew’s potential and ability very highly and he developed a solid set of boxing skills and knowledge under the development of the late Jimmy Albertina (Albo) in his early amateur days which matched his heavy hands. Bellew and a lot of other ex Rotunda amateurs still pay great homage to Albo and you will see his name etched on the waistbands of a lot of scouse fighter’s shorts. However, as Stephen Smith was winning commonwealth gold; Paul Smith in the States filming the contender and Joe Selkirk was knocking out Anthony Agogo, Bellew still never truly received the credit he deserved.
Anybody who has been around amateur boxing for a while will pay massive respect to Tony Bellew, which he deserves, because they have seen (to an extent) the journey he has had. He calls himself a fat heavyweight and he once was, but he then made what appeared to be a crazy decision to turn pro and work his way down to light-heavyweight firstly with Arnie (Anthony Farnell) before making a move back to the Rotunda with Mick McAllister and finally ending up a Cruiserweight with Dave Coldwell. He has been shafted by promoters, written off by the press and fought his way through adversity with knockdowns and cuts along the way but other than being outclassed in a defeat to Adonis Stevenson he has never been out of his depth.
I simply can’t understand how or why he seems to gain a multitude of criticism from the media – he has a huge fan base and has showed many different boxing attributes but instead of applauding him for boxing off the backfoot against McKenzie he is labelled as boring. Instead of applauding his courage for climbing off the floor to win, questions are asked of why he was down there. Besides the aforementioned skills he has fought everyone he has had to, from British level to world level – he’s avoided nobody and looks likely to take on the most dangerous Cruiserweight in the world on his next assignment. Moreover, he makes you want to watch his fights – he’s pure entertainment in his press conferences and interviews with a sharp sense of humour and an even sharper tongue when talking about his opponents.
Bellew sits on the verge of a third tilt of a World Title, with a Commonwealth and British title already in his back pocket. He has made a living from being written off, people tuning in to see him get beaten because he wears his heart on his sleeve and has a big mouth. Who can criticise him for that?
With the amount of fakes in boxing he is a breath of fresh air and if he does capture a World Title before hanging up his gloves, who could begrudge him it? He’s done it the hard way. What’s more who would have thought that he could turn out to be the jewel in the crown from the golden generation of the Rotunda? I didn’t. And I don’t think a lot of other people did either. Good luck to him!