By Terence Dooley
Liverpool's Tony Bellew lit up the city's ECHO Arena when knocking out former European light-heavyweight titlist Danny McIntosh in five rounds on Friday night. Bellew's first defence of his British 175lb belt was his maiden voyage as sole headliner at the impressive venue. His most recent outing at the ECHO had seen Bellew share the bill with James DeGale when “Chunky” won the EBU super middleweight title from Piotr Wilczewski on the undercard of Bellew's unsuccessful WBO world title challenge to Nathan Cleverly in October – a close decision defeat.
The fight was originally scheduled for April 13, but was postponed when McIntosh picked up a chest infection. The city's recent sporting occasions, such as Liverpool FC's march to an FA Cup final at the expense of Everton FC and the Grand National, impacted on ticket sales, with the paying audience estimated to be around the three thousand mark. Still, the fans cheered on Bellew's every punch and roared in appreciation when the 29-year-old ended the argument at 0:38 of the fifth with a huge right hand to move to 17-1 (11). McIntosh falls to 13-3 (7).
Coldwell Promotions staged the event after winning the purse bids, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom brought the fight to Sky Sports. Hearn believes that Bellew showed the power, style and excitement needed to become a big crossover star.
“The crowd number was a little bit disappointing, around three thousand – I thought we would have done more, but it was an incredible performance, really, really good,” said Hearn when speaking to BoxingScene.com. “McIntosh is a British and European level performer, Tony made him look like a journeyman. When you knock someone out cold like that after a great performance it is the icing on the cake.
“We don't promote Tony Bellew [who has a promotional contract with Frank Warren Promotions], but I can't believe the rematch between Cleverly and Bellew hasn't been made because it is a great fight. It was a great fight the first time and is easy to make, but it isn't up to me. Tony has come back from that with a great performance.
“What we need in boxing is personalities and characters, and Tony is both. The fans love him and the TV executives love him – he is someone that can be a big star because he's got personality and commitment. Tony's in a great position at the moment and can go on to European and world title level. Tony is humble, he doesn't really understand why people come to watch him box and tune in, but he better start understanding because he's going to be a big star.”
As for the ticket sales, times are hard and Liverpool's sporting mad fans have been spoilt for choice in recent weeks. Hearn believes that tonight's three thousand mark for Bellew's headline slot provides a solid base from which to build. He pointed out that Kell Brook went to Hillsborough Leisure Centre and the city's Ponds Forge Arena before packing out the Motorpoint Arena for his decision win over Matthew Hatton in March.
“It was unbelievable,” said Hearn when recalling Brook's last fight, “but you don't just walk into 10000 ticket sales, you have to build towards it. It was disappointing to come here tonight and see that the ticket sales were a little disappointing, but that's OK because you need to build Bellew into a five and six thousand ticket seller then, like Kell Brook did, go to 10000. Let's see if we can get Kell to 10000 next time – that is the challenge.”
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