By Terence Dooley
Liverpool's Derry Mathews was not at London's Alexandra Palace in person to cheer on his fellow Liverpudlian Tony Bellew when The Bomber out-boxed and then stopped Edison Miranda in the ninth-round on Saturday night, but Mathews was there in spirit for the latest step in the 29-year-old's march to the top of the 175lb rankings.
Bellew controlled the pace for large periods of the contest, adopting Larry Holmes's adage of, Get them drunk and then mug them, in order to post a win over the former middleweight world title challenger. Mathews was one of the first fighters to congratulate Bellew on the win.
Mathews, a former WBU featherweight champion, took a step back from boxing after shocking stoppage defeats to Choi Tseveenpurev, Martin Lindsay, Harry Ramogoadi and Scott Lawton during the course of 2008-2009 only to come back to the sport in 2010.
This decision has proven a wise one as Mathews is currently in training for Prizefighter: The Lightweights, which takes place at Liverpool's Olympia venue on October 6. He recently won the British and then fought for the EBU lightweight belt an upset stoppage win over Anthony Crolla in six-rounds followed by a ninth-round defeat to Gavin Rees. A 2002 ABA bantamweight champion, Mathews is always in exciting fights and has remained in the lightweight title mix since moving up to 135lbs in January 2011.
The 28-year-old's support for Bellew runs deep and the mutual friendship between the two is always on display in and around the build up to their fights. Like members of a fistic Liverpudlian relay team, the boxers share their ups and downs, and there is a lot of crossover amongst their mutual sets of fans despite both fighters supporting rival football teams Bellew is an Evertonian and Mathews supports Liverpool FC.
Mathews, 30-7-1 (16), revealed the depth of this friendship during a recent conversation with BoxingScene, and also revealed how long he feels he has left in the sport. I remember when I lost to Choi (on April 5 2008), Tony Bellew walked to the ring shouting my name, that meant a lot to me and my fans, so they've always respected him for that, said Mathews.
Tony is a blue and comes out to (the ring to the theme from) Z Cars (Everton FC's official pre-match tune), but even though the majority of my fans are reds they'll still go out and support him. Tony's a good, genuine lad and it is the same with (British heavyweight champion) David Price. We're lucky, really, to have each other and live in a city that produces some good champions.
Bellew's post-Tseveenpurev rallying cry showed Mathews that he still had a lot of support despite a devastating defeat. A career that looked to be over at an early age is back on track after that brief sabbatical and Mathews firmly believes that he can reach a milestone figure before he ducks out of the sport.
It is going to be a very hard night, a tough night, but one that I can win, said Mathews when asked Prizefighter. I want to get to 50 (fights) and then I'm done (with boxing).
Given the venue for Prizefighter, it is likely that Bellew will be in the crowd. This time, though, the British light-heavyweight champion could be leading the fans in a victory cry for the local hero.
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