By Terence Dooley
Liverpool light-heavyweight Tony Bellew hopes to underline his dominance over Ovill McKenzie when the two men fight a rematch at the ECHO Arena, Liverpool on Saturday night. Bellew stopped McKenzie at 2:46 of round eight last December only for controversy to rage over the timing of the decision. Frank Warren has brought the two men back together again in a match-up that is guaranteed to provide excitement.
Bellew’s next goal is an all-British WBO world title showdown with Cefn Forest’s Nathan Cleverly. The 28-year-old is desperate to secure the grudge match for a number of reasons, chief amongst them the chance to reign as a titlist alongside the division’s true champion, Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins. Tony is a huge fan of the 46-year-old Philadelphian trickster, telling me that the American is setting the standard for other 175lbers.
“It is amazing, a fantastic achievement,” purred the Commonwealth titleholder as we discussed Hopkins’s historical WBC title win over Jean Pascal. “I’ve studied Bernard for a decade now and look up to him. The guy is getting better with age. The tricks he does are old tricks that you have seen further back in the past but he’s obviously gone through an awful lot of tapes and fights to pick them up.
“Bernard lost to Roy Jones in 1993 but came back through the hard way. He is an inspiration to young kids. You can show young guys Bernard’s career and that you can have a loss or two but still get to the top. He’s a fantastic Hall Of Fame fighter.”
Indeed, one of Bellew’s dreams is to share some gym time with the experienced American. The Liverpudlian would relish the opportunity to learn from ‘B-Hop’ before the former undisputed middleweight champion leaves the sport behind.
“I have tweeted Bernard to tell him I respect him,” smiled Bellew. “I’d love to spar with him or watch him train just to see how he goes about things. I’ve sent him messages telling him he’s a great, great fighter but he probably gets so many messages that he might not know that I’m a fellow fighter and fan. Sparring or just being around Hopkins is a dream of mine further down the line.”
‘Bomber’ believes that Bernard’s success is built on hard work, talent and fighting spirit, the template for any wannabe world champion; his former gym mate, Frankie Gavin, has talent in abundance yet there are question marks over Gavin’s dedication ahead of the Brummie’s grudge match with Driffield’s Curtis Woodhouse on the ECHO undercard.
Gavin courted controversy by agreeing to a 144lb weight limit only to reveal that he would not be able to make the stipulated poundage, pushing the bout to 147lbs and prompting Woodhouse to question his opponent’s commitment. Bellew, though, has no doubts about ‘Funtime’ and his future direction.
“Frankie’s the most purely gifted boxer in the country, I love watching him perform. Frankie is going to be the face of British boxing in the next eighteen months. People will see his unbelievable ability; his talent in the ring is second to none. Don’t worry about his weight, it won’t be an issue as he moves on because when the time comes he’ll make whatever weight he settles into, it won’t be a problem,” predicted the three-time ABA heavyweight titlist.
He added: “In twelve or eighteen months time we’ll be talking about Frankie in the same way we talk about Amir Khan, the kid is going places, people should keep the faith in him.”
As for the rest of the ECHO bill, Bellew believes that there is something for everyone on Warren’s big show. He said, “If you want excitement then the main fight has got to be [John] Murray against [Kevin] Mitchell, you’ve got a sharp puncher against a brawler in that one. It is going to be an exciting fight, it really is.
“I think Kevin is up for this fight. If one or the both of them start early and fast then it could be over quick. Kevin will be sharp early so John will have to watch out but if Murray gets going and drags Kevin into his fight then I don’t see him lasting at that pace.
“Kevin has got some serious power. John hasn’t fought anyone like Kevin so it will be a serious test. Kevin will be tested the way he was in the [Michael] Katsidis fight so it is a big one for both lads. Kevin got shocked by Katsidis but these two are at a similar level so it could come down to who implements their game plan the best and sticks to it.”
Ricky Burns defends his WBO super-featherweight belt against London’s Nicky Cook. ‘Cookie’ wrested the same belt from Alex Arthur in September 2008 only to lose it in his first defence, a fourth round reverse to Roman Martinez, who himself ceded the title during a September thriller with Burns. Burns-Cook is an interesting one, Nicky has been written off yet had the fight been made, say, three years ago many in the trade would have plumped for Cook’s great experience and pedigree.
Events have turned predictions on their head, Burns is heavily favoured, however one or two people believe that Cook still has what it takes to produce an upset win. Bellew is not prepared to consign Cook to the history books, explaining that the Londoner’s ability and aggression will trouble Burns.
“Ricky Burns is a fantastically improved fighter due to [trainer] Billy Nelson, they’ve gelled very well – Ricky is a fantastic fighter and athlete. Nicky has been out for a long time but I’ve always rated him. He’s a lovely boxer, very good body puncher and tough. This one is a really good fight, a trade fight that people in the sport want to see,” predicted the 15-0 (10) slugger.
Click this link for our recent in-depth interview with Bellew: http://www.boxingscene.com/bellew-blasts-mckenzie-rips-cleverly-talks-new-team--41513
Sky Sports HD1 and 1 televise live from 9pm on Saturday night.
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