Tony Bellew says he can afford no slip-ups against Julio Cesar Dos Santos on Saturday night at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, live on Sky Sports – as he wants to fight Nathan Cleverly next and end the Welshman’s career.
Bellew faces the big-hitting Brazilian in his second fight at Cruiserweight, with bitter rival Cleverly clashing with Alejandro Valori on the same bill also in his second bout at 200lbs.
Promoter Eddie Hearn has dubbed the show ‘Collision Course’ as the rivals head towards a huge rematch of their October 2011 fight later in the year, and the hometown favourite says if they both get through their challenges at the weekend, a second fight is inevitable – and Bellew wants to settle the score in emphatic fashion.
“It will happen and when it does happen I am going to retire him,” said Bellew. “Whether it be this year, next year or whenever, I will retire him. I need to focus on tonight’s fight and not give him a second thought. In the back of my mind the carrot is being dangled in front of me and when this fight is over he will be on my mind, but for now it is all about Dos Santos and getting the job done. When his time comes he will understand and he will know what is coming.
“When I get in the ring with him I am not losing two stone, I am not killing myself to do the weight, and he is going to know that.
“It doesn’t need a World title. It is personal. The fight does absolutely nothing for my ranking because he is ranked below me. I will be fighting him purely for personal reasons, because I want to get rid of him. It is personal and that is the only reason I will fight him.
“I am all about becoming World champion but I will be fighting him to purely please a personal satisfaction. I believe I won the first fight, but I didn’t officially get the decision. I am pretty confident I will get it next time – I won’t need decisions, referees or judges. I will just need a pair of gloves and him in a ring, and I will do the rest of the job.”
Dos Santos will have a big say in those future plans though and with him bringing an ominous looking record of 23 KOs from 26 wins over to Merseyside, and Bellew insists the carrot of a clash with Cleverly has not distracted him from a tough second task at a weight he is still settling in to.
“I am going in with a top class Cruiserweight in Dos Santos who gives out good tests,” said Bellew. “I expect an extremely durable fighter, somebody who is maybe a bit stronger physically than me, but I am pretty confident he will get a shock when I hit him for the first time.
“Everyone goes the same way, they look at me across the ring and they think tall, skinny, he isn’t going to be able to punch much. I hit them for the first time and just look at their face when I nail them clean, they have been hit with something they haven’t been hit with before. It was the exact same with Brudov. When I hit these guys, they think twice about coming in.
“I have nothing but respect for Valery and I am sure he will go on to give people some tough tests but he came up against the new me – a huge-punching Cruiserweight.
“I didn’t have that kind of power at Light Heavyweight, and if I threw more than three or four power shots in a round at Light Heavyweight I would be tiring, so I had to limit myself to how many power shots I could throw and also to what I was taking back. I couldn’t take many risks at Light Heavyweight because my durability just wasn’t there, I couldn’t sustain any punishment at Light Heavyweight and I was feeling every single punch. At Cruiserweight I am quite happy giving and receiving punches, so there won’t be any problems there – I don’t envisage myself being vulnerable at this weight.”
Bellew and Cleverly lead a star-studded line up in Liverpool with local favourites mixing with Olympic heroes.
Super Middleweight talents Rocky Fielding and Callum Smith look to add to their unbeaten records with fights against Noe Gonzalez Alcoba and Vladine Biosse, while Callum’s older brother Stephen keeps busy in an eight-round clash as he prepares to fight for a World title in the new season.
Olympic gold medal stars Anthony Joshua MBE and Luke Campbell MBE close their first seasons in their first action in Liverpool, with Joshua facing Matt Skelton while Campbell’s opponent will be announced soon. They are joined by Team GB teammate and bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo who faces Sheffield’s Wayne Reed.
Unbeaten Liverpool Featherweight John Quigley is in his 13th fight on the bill which is completed by former Team GB starlet Gamal Yafai and unbeaten Cambridge Lightweight Tommy Martin.
Tickets are on sale priced £30, £40, £60 and ringside seats at £100 available from the Echo Arena on 0844 8000 400 and at www.echoarena.com
VIP tickets priced at £150 are exclusively available from Matchroom Sport on 01277 359900 and at www.matchroomboxing.com