By Nick Halling
Scott Quigg is defending his WBA regular super bantamweight belt in Manchester on 13 September against an as-yet unnamed opponent. Leo Santa Cruz is defending his WBC super bantamweight belt on the Mayweather-Maidana undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the same night – also against an unnamed opponent.
Joe Gallagher, Quigg’s trainer has a blindingly obvious proposal to resolve the situation – get Quigg and Santa Cruz in the same ring for a unification fight. It’s a simple solution to a matchmaking problem, but of course, it’s never going to happen, much as Gallagher would like it to.
“There’s no reason this fight cant happen,” said Gallagher. “We’re seven weeks out and Quigg is in camp right now. I know Santa Cruz is training too, because he’s been given his date, so let’s get them together for what would be a huge fight. I’ve been after Santa Cruz for a long time, because it’s a fight I know we can win.”
But of course, there’s a problem. And as far as Gallagher is concerned, that problem is Al Haymon. Santa Cruz is one of many fighters to have fallen for Haymon’s “business advisor to the stars” routine, and has signed up with the shadowy Svengali in the hope that some of Mayweather’s millions fall his way.
But there are two things Haymon doesn’t like. He doesn’t like his fighters to travel, and he’s not thrilled at the prospect of putting them in 50/50 fights. “I don’t think Al Haymon would put Santa Cruz in with Quigg because it’s too big a risk,” said Gallagher.
“Haymon is looking after Santa Cruz because he thinks he has pay-per-view potential, and losing to Quigg would jeopardise that.
“He can come to Manchester or we’ll go to Vegas, it doesn’t bother us either way. We can all be sensible about it. We can all get paid, because if it’s on the undercard of a Mayweather show, there will be plenty of money around. Fighters just want to fight, so let them do it.”
Don’t make any travel plans around this one. There’s as much chance of Santa Cruz coming to the UK as there is of Miguel Vazquez, another Haymon client, defending his IBF lightweight title against Kevin Mitchell in London in October. Haymon doesn’t do passports.
Instead, Santa Cruz will defend against someone he’d be expected to beat. And Quigg might be stuck with an opponent like Cesar Seda, whose name has already been put in the frame for Manchester. That’s the reality of boxing politics.
Kell Brook is packing his bags and ready for a flight to Las Vegas on Wednesday, the final leg of his preparations for next month’s world title tussle with Shawn Porter. The idea behind spending 10 days in the heat of Vegas is to help Brook acclimatise to extreme temperatures and the eight hour time difference. There wont be any heavy lifting done in Vegas – that’s already been taken care of during a long and successful 12-week training camp.
Brook is generally happy with his own company, but there will be a couple of friendly faces making the trip to Vegas with him in the form of stablemates Bob Ajisafe and Kid Galahad. Both have fights coming up in September, so their workload will be rather more intense.
One issue Brook’s people are not overly concerning themselves with is the subject of random drug testing. It’s not something they can control, so they have taken the decision not to make it a distraction in the buildup to 16 August.
The word out of the Ingle gym in Sheffield is that Brook is in outstanding physical shape, is very focussed, and is supremely confident.
Tony Bellew’s smartest move in the shattering aftermath of last year’s loss to Adonis Stevenson might not have been giving up on light heavyweight and moving up to cruiser. It might be upgrading longtime team member Dave Coldwell to the role of lead trainer.
Since coming under Coldwell’s wing earlier this year, the improvement in Bellew, particularly in terms of his power, has been eye-opening. Part of it is simple to explain.
The Liverpool man said he was dead at the weight against Stevenson, and two subsequent appearances at 200lbs proves it. The wins over Valery Brudov and Julio Cesar dos Santos have been emphatic – and sealed with devastating left hooks.
Bellew, quite simply, looks natural and strong at the weight. And if he’d listened to Coldwell in the first place, there’s a chance he never would have campaigned at light heavy at all.
Back in late 2007, when the former ABA heavyweight champ decided to turn pro, he told Coldwell that he would try his luck at 175lbs. Coldwell thought it was a mistake even then, although officially it was none of his business, as he wasn’t working with the fighter. But he’s been proved right.
Even though he had success at a domestic level, there was always an element of fragility around Bellew, most notably when he was put on the floor by Bob Ajisafe and Ovill McKenzie. In a sense, the disaster night in Quebec against Stevenson had been coming for a while.
The former British champion has finally found his natural weight, and is no longer losing strength (and therefore power) by boiling down to light heavy. Since being elevated to the lead role, Coldwell has worked on his fighter’s technique too, and the combination has been effective.
The versatile Coldwell, who these days is better known as a manager and a trainer, is a stickler for technical work. He is a demanding tutor, but in Bellew he has found a willing student who is hungry to learn. Both of them can see significant progress being made.
The move to Coldwell’s gym in Rotherham could have caused logistical and travel problems in training camp for Bellew, a devoted family man. However, the structured nature of camp ensures the best of both worlds.
Bellew works in Rotherham on Mondays and Tuesdays, goes back to Liverpool for strength and conditioning on Wednesdays, before returning to Yorkshire for more boxing work on Thursdays and Fridays. Saturdays are non-punching days on Merseyside, while Sundays are off. It’s a six-day week grind, but with plenty of family time in the mix too. For Bellew, that’s important to an overall sense of wellbeing.
Next stop, of course, is the much-anticipated return engagement with bitter rival Nathan Cleverly, an encounter which should occur in November. Cleverly, too, has not looked shabby at the higher weight, with a couple of quick stoppages on his card. It is a grudge match of the year candidate, and the winner can expect to challenge for the WBC title in early 2015.
Publicly, Coldwell continues to describe his man as a work in progress, and having been around the game for a long time, he’s right to exercise a note of caution. But there’s a strong sense that with Coldwell at the helm, Bellew is now beginning to reach his true potential.
Nobody in British boxing talks a better fight than Tony Bellew. If Coldwell can help him back up his words with performances in the ring, there might be a cruiserweight world title belt heading to Merseyside next year.
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports.