By Terence Dooley
Tony Bellew takes his next step on the road to world light-heavyweight title contention when he meets Colombian danger man Edison Miranda at London's Alexandra Palace in front of the Sky TV cameras on Saturday night. One of British boxing's most engaging characters, Bellew has been given the big build up by the network in the run up to the fight. The popular Liverpudlian recently featured on Ringside's Ones To Watch show and the Sky boxing team clearly feel that Bellew can continue to bring increasingly steady and solid boxing mixed with KO power to our screens.
Although criticised in some quarters as a fluff piece for Sky's “house” fighters, the Ones To Watch show gave viewers a unique insight into Carl Frampton, Kell Brook and Bellew, who showed a hands on approach when it comes to dental hygiene by timing his sons as they brushed their teeth. Bellew's part of the show showcased a different side to his personality, allowing viewers to see a relaxed family man a million miles removed from the fighter who once yelled “I'm a smashing machine” after a stoppage win.
It was good to see this aspect of the boxer as the two sides of Bellew's personality create an interesting dichotomy that is matched by his fighting style. He was vulnerable in the past yet looks to have struck a balance between attack and defence and the transition is become as seamless as the transformation on fight nights, when Bellew goes from a chatty, warm and friendly character to a focussed and determined fighter.
Bellew, 17-1 (11), will see both sides of his boxing game in this 12 rounder and although Miranda has dismissed his British foe as a stepping stone en route to enticing Carl Froch into a fight, Bellew has promised that the 31-year-old former world middleweight title challenger known as “Pantera”, 35-7 (30), will know all about him once the dust settles on the night.
“He is talking a great fight,” said Bellew when speaking to BoxingScene. “If world titles were given out for talking then he'd be a multi-weight, multi-talented world champion. It is good because I've never wrote him off or thought he was finished, I know what he's about and have seen his kind come and go.
“I need just need to use my brain, my skill and ring generalmanship, and I know I will. Listen, you don't knock out the likes of Howard Eastman and beat people that he's beat like Allan Green without being able to box a bit, but there's different levels in boxing, you're either an out-and-out slugger, a boxer or someone who can do both. Edison's a guy who will try to get me into a war, but I have height, reach and ability over him at light-heavyweight – I plan to use my strengths to combat his strengths. That is how I will win this fight.”
It would be easy to make a lazy comparison between Ovill McKenzie, who floored Bellew twice in their fist encounter only to be stopped on his feet in round eight after a heavy knockdown before losing a wide decision in their rematch, and Miranda. They both are stocky, solidly built guys who load up on shots. Indeed, if Miranda has seen the McKenzie fights, especially the early rounds of the first encounter, he may be expecting his opponent to leave plenty of openings.
“If I'm totally honest I don't think he's watched me and thinks I'm just an English bum who he can walk through,” said Bellew. “If he has watched me, then I hope he has watched the McKenzie fights because there's not really enough of what I'm really about for him to see. If he watched the first couple of rounds of the second McKenzie fight he'll think it is boring and stop watching. If he watches the first one, and I hope he has done, then he's in for a nasty shock because Ovill put me down the first time then came into the second one thinking it was going to be the same fight – and you saw what happened to him.
“There's points to prove in this fight, things to show people and we're nearly there. I believe I'm learning all the time. I never believe that any fighter is the finished article so I'm putting things into play all the time and want to put something into the sport and show how good I am. I think I've shown how good I can be, but not how good I will be just yet. I will show that, though.
“Everyone will see what Tony Bellew's all about in this fight. I'll just go out, use my brain, be me and will look good. It is what I wanted. Make no mistake, I picked Edison Miranda. I know who he is and what he's about, he didn't know me, so I've just got to go in there now and do it. All I can say is that he will find out who Tony Bellew is on Saturday night. He doesn't know me now, probably doesn't respect me, but will find out.”
Now free from his managerial contract with Frank Warren, Bellew is fighting on a Matchroom card in a one fight deal he struck with Eddie Hearn in order to get an outing under his belt before sorting out his long-term future. The 29-year-old sounded content and happy with his current situation.
“I am, yeah,” said Bellew. “I've got a fantastic team around me, without them I wouldn't be fighting. I'm happy, relieved because some fighters get wore down by it all. For the first time in my life, I could see why some fighters walk away from the sport and have enough, but I'm mentally strong and won't back down to anyone or anything. I'm in boxing for the long haul. This is all I know, this what I do and come Saturday you'll see what I'm about again.”
Warren, though, has stated that he recently tried to offer Bellew a fight with Wales's WBO champion Nathan Cleverly, who won a majority decision over the current British title holder in October of last year. Bellew refutes Warren's claim, he hankered long and hard for a rematch in the aftermath of the fight only to declare that he was putting it, and his association with Warren, behind him in order to forge his own path to the top.
“The best thing for me to say in reply to that is if Frank has made me an offer then make the offer public like he did with Carl Froch,” said Bellew. “They haven't made me any offer whatsoever. Frank has my email address, my advisor's address and my solicitors details. If he made me an offer then make it public, Frank, because I’ve not heard any offers from you. It is all about timing, all I'll say is release the amount of the offer like you did for Carl Froch and the date you proposed the fight for.”
That's Tony Bellew, it was bullish yet articulate fighting talk all round from the three-time ABA heavyweight titlist, British and Commonwealth title holder at 175lbs, world title challenger, family man, warrior and amateur dental hygienist – win, lose or draw, Miranda is likely to find out that “Bomber” is locked and loaded for action come the first bell.
As for the fight itself, it is likely that Bellew will box early on in the contest and then see if he can apply the finish, as Larry Holmes used to when he would, “Get them drunk and then knock them out”. If Miranda proves too hardy for this then Bellew has shown that he is happy to get a decision win under his belt if the occasion dictates. Either way, everything is set up perfectly for Liverpool's loquacious light-heavyweight hope.
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