By Luke Madeira [@lukemadeira15]
Tony Bellew is on a mission. The former two time light-heavyweight world title challenger is now up at his preferred weight and is looking to establish himself with a bang.
Having already avenged one of his losses against Nathan Cleverly late last year with a convincing points decision, a world title shot up at 200 pounds looks set to be looming for the ‘Bomber’. The straight talking Liverpudlian is unbeaten in his last five outings, knocking out four of his five opponents since his spirited loss to lineal light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson in late 2013.
But it isn’t just Bellew’s boxing ability that is catching the headlines; the former three-time ABA champion has recently taken a short break from boxing to become a Hollywood movie star. Featuring in the highly anticipated Rocky spin off ‘Creed’, the 32 year old enjoyed his venture away from the world boxing scene, however noting his ultimate dream has still yet to be fulfilled despite his exposure as a star of the big screen.
For now, the staunch Everton fan is not a world champion but that may be about to change. A world title shot may be imminent for Bellew, and he believes this time, the outcome will be completely different.
Bellew opened up about his early career in boxing, back when he was just one of many young kids that loved to fight. “My father owned a couple of security companies and always wanted me to be able to defend myself. It started through kick boxing and then it lead on from there.” His first memories of boxing are indicative of the boxing scene in the late eighties and early nineties, “I used to stay up late to watch Mike Tyson fight, I was always a huge boxing fan and I loved to watch fights. especially the Tyson fights.”
Training at the Rotunda gym in Liverpool in his amateur days, a former teammate achieved his dream recently winning a world title. “It was an amazing achievement for Liam (Smith). Everybody in the city of Liverpool is extremely happy for him and I’m over the moon for him. It’s a lifelong goal achieved for Liam and people can’t understand how happy he is with his title. I caught up with him at the Boxing Writers awards the other day and he was so happy. It’s so well deserved because Liam is a kid who is very dedicated to his trade.”
The former British champion had a very successful amateur career, and when pressed on the biggest highlights from his time in the unpaid ranks, he beamed, “Boxing for my country was always a big highlight, but winning and defending my ABA title on three separate occasions was a great thing to do. Very people retain their title three years in a row and I knocked out some good fighters along the way, including [current cruiserweight] Jon-Lewis Dickinson.”
After commencing his professional career in June 2007, seven impressive stoppage wins in his first ten fights were to announce Bellew upon the British boxing scene. His transition into the professional ranks seemed smooth for the Liverpudlian. “I always knew the pro game was going to suit me better, I formulated a lot of the training myself for the first couple of years that I was pro. I made a quick rise through the rankings and was up there very quickly.”
The time to challenge for titles was never too far away for the current WBO international champion, as his successful amateur career proceeded him; Tony Bellew was ready for the test, and that came in the shape of Atoli Moore for the vacant Commonwealth light heavyweight title in March 2010.
Dispatching the Ghanaian in just one round, Bellew went on to defend his Commonwealth title three times, whilst picking up the coveted British title in the process,”It’s difficult to say how hard my defences were because I beat guys that were avoided. In my Commonwealth defences I beat Ovill McKenzie who nobody wants to face, I beat Bob Ajisafe who nobody wants to face, so I was facing high level domestic guys.” He continued, “Besides the McKenzie fight, I was making pretty easy work of all of them all. There wasn’t anybody that could touch me domestically and people seem to forget that I was fighting for a title in only my twelfth fight as a pro.
“From the twelfth fight, I then went on to fight fourteen title fights on the spin, so it was a crazy thing to do if you think about fighters now. It isn’t the title fights that do the damage it’s the training camps for them where you start to damage yourself. I have done a lot of training for twelve round fights, and to be honest it has been hard at times”, revealed Bellew.
A shot at WBO world champion Nathan Cleverly appeared on the horizon in October 2011. The fight was abruptly offered to Bellew just a few months earlier, but unable to safely cut the weight required at such short notice, the fight was rescheduled following a very memorable and heated build-up to the postponed clash. The highly anticipated all-British world title fight would be the first loss that Bellew would suffer since his professional career had began.
Many fighters need to take breaks after their first loss to reassess where they want to go in the sport, but for Bellew, that simply wasn’t the case. The father of three has experienced two losses in his professional career to date at the hands of Cleverly, and the aforementioned Adonis Stevenson, but he went onto explain why both losses were somewhat different, “The Cleverly loss didn’t affect me at all to be honest because I didn’t think I lost the fight. I didn’t class the Cleverly fight as a loss and I thought myself as an uncrowned world champion, so to speak.”
Opening up about his loss in 2014, Bellew said, “The Adonis Stevenson loss was a lot harder to take because I lost and lost well. I think Stevenson is exceptional. I think he is the best fighter I have ever faced amateur and pro, he is technically superb and he punches very hard. He’s got it all to be honest, I think he’s a piece of s**t as a human being but he’s a very good fighter in my opinion.” When pressed about the victor of a potential fight between current light heavyweight champions Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev, Bellew candidly replied, “It’s a real fifty-fifty fight, but I would have to go with Adonis Stevenson.”
Avenging his first defeat at the hands of Cleverly was paramount to the Liverpool man. Justice was served in the eyes of Bellew, when he comprehensively out boxed and outfought Cleverly in the highly anticipated rematch. Pushed on whether it was the best victory of his career to date, Bellew responded, “It looks to be on paper but a win is a win. It was very satisfying for me because I though I beat him the first fight, and it came out that everything I had said in the build up was true. In the first fight I was weight drained and dead at the weight, but in the rematch I bullied him, I beat him up and I roughed him up.”
We then moved onto a defining moment in the career of the Bomber. Since joining up with trainer Dave Coldwell, the improvements that can be seen are drastic. When asked about how much Coldwell has added to his game, there was a resounding answer, “He’s added an awful lot. I have known Dave for a very long time and he is a fantastic coach. He has added an awful lot more technique to my game, I think that’s the best way I can describe what Dave has done for me”.
Continuing, he said, “He leaves no stone unturned in training camps and he is very diligent in the way he prepares me. There is a reason for everything that we do and he doesn’t miss a trick. With him being a former fighter, it helps am awful lot in my opinion”.
“I would like to think Dave is starting to get credit for his work, he certainly deserves it at least. Dave is in a position like myself where he deserves a lot more credit for what he has done. Going out to Texas with Jamie McDonnell was an amazing achievement and then to repeat it the second time round, it was an unbelievable thing to do. He is never going to get the credit that he deserves but he isn’t a glory hunting trainer. He just wants to do his job for the fighter and he is happy to just go unnoticed”.
Moving on to his future, Bellew is scheduled to fight on the under card of Anthony Joshua versus Dillian Whyte at the 02 Arena in London on December 12.
Speaking about his possible return date he said, “We are negotiating with a couple of guys and I’m sure we will have an announcement very soon. I would love it to be a world title shot but as I say, these negotiations are taking longer than I expected”.
“All these world champions want to face me but they aren’t talking my kind of language at the moment. I was on the verge of becoming Glowacki’s mandatory but he got injured before it could happen. I got offered the opportunity that Ovill Mckenzie had but ultimately I just wasn’t given enough opportunity to prepare for the fight”.
The Cruiserweight division is certainly hot on the world scene at the moment. With Lebedev, Drozd, Glowacki and Ramirez holding the world title straps, there are a number of options that Bellew can look to pursue.
When asked about the best current Cruiserweight world champion, Bellew answered immediately, “I believe that the best Cruiserweight in the world is Juan Pablo Hernandez but unfortunately he is injured at the moment. It is very sad that he is out at the moment but I do think he is the best when fit”.
When pressed upon which champion he would like to fight given the option, Bellew responded, “I just want to get a world title shot to be honest. I believe that I can beat any of the world champions at the weight. I have learnt from the experience that I have gained and I have never dodged anybody. I just want a shot at a Cruiserweight world championship and I believe that I deserve it.”
Quick fire question round:
Favourite fighter growing up: Riddick Bowe.
Favourite glove: Grants.
Best round you’ve seen: Holyfield versus Bowe, round 10.
Best fight you’ve seen: Morales Barrera 1.
First fight you went to: An amateur show in a sports centre somewhere.
First memory of boxing: Staying up late to watch great fighters like Mike Tyson.
Best punch you’ve ever received: Sparring with David Haye in 2004; he hit me with a right uppercut. Unbelievable punch. It didn’t put me down but I feel like it’s the hardest I have ever been hit.
Best punch you’ve ever landed: In Puerto Rico against the Puerto Rican number one, we came out at the start of the round and we threw a jab each, and then I heard from my corner that I was three rounds down. My best punch was a left hook and he was fast asleep.
Funniest personal moment in boxing: Farting live on Sky Sports!
Best fight you’ve seen live: Matt Skelton against Martin Rogan.