By Nick Halling
Tony Bellew believes his move up to cruiserweight is a natural progression which will see him win the world title he covets – at the second time of asking. Bellew will formally begin his cruiserweight career on a bill in his home town of Liverpool on 15th March.
The former British champ’s first shot ended painfully when big punching Adonis Stevenson stopped him in Quebec for the WBC light heavy crown last month. Bellew says he knew on the eve of that fight that he was in trouble.
“I’ve never had to dry out before to make weight, but honestly those last four pounds were just murder to get off,” he admitted. “Even if I’d have won, I wouldn’t have stuck around at light heavy, unless it was for the big money fight against Bernard Hopkins. A guy of 6ft 3in shouldn’t be fighting at 12st 7lb (175 pounds).”
The decision was made almost as soon as Bellew arrived back in the UK after the failed Canadian venture. He began lifting weights immediately, something he has steered clear of in the past. “I’ve never really done a lot of lifting before, because I was worried about the weight going on. But that’s not something I have to think about now.
“I’m doing my training just for my boxing, and not because I’ve got to get down to light heavy. There’s no worry about the diet, I don’t just have to put in hour after hour of running,” he added. “I’d always said I wouldn’t move up on the basis that if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. Well, it was well and truly broken against Stevenson, so changes had to be made. This is a much more natural weight for me. I’m at 14st 7lb now, and thats in good shape. Imagine trying to lose two stone (28 pounds) off this frame.”
Bellew has been given a number seven ranking with the WBC and has told his promoter, Eddie Hearn, that he is not interested in soft opponents. “I don’t want easy fights, not at this stage of my career,” he said. “When I’m out in March, it will be against someone who is ranked. Ideally, I want three or four fights before I have another shot at the world title.”
Bellew may have moved up, but that is the only significant change the fighter has planned. He is full of admiration for Hearn who has, he says, delivered on all his promises. Nor has he considered any changes to his training team of Mick McAllister, Dave Coldwell and cutman Mick Williamson.
“Any man who blames his trainer (for a defeat) is a coward,” he said. “The guys around me are terrific. They get me ready, they do everything for me, the sparring they get me is excellent. But on the night it’s up to me, and I didn’t deliver. I was down about it for a while, but it hasn’t knocked my confidence too badly. I’ve fought the best fighter in the world at the weight. I have no doubt at all that Stevenson would beat Kovalev.”
Bellew dismisses fears that he will be up against more powerful opponents, observing that only two top-ranked cruisers are taller than him (Cuba’s IBF champ Yoan Pablo Hernandez and WBA boss Guillermo Jones are both 6ft 4). “I’m not fighting bigger guys, I’m fighting guys who are my size,” he said. “Look at some of the guys who move up, people like Stevenson, for example. He’s become more powerful and formidable than he was when he was boxing at super middle.
“And I guarantee that people will see more exciting fights from me at cruiserweight. There will be more knockouts too, and thats something that’s been missing for a while from my game. I always felt a little bit vulnerable at light heavy,and you’ve seen that in some of my recent fights. But when I’ve been sparring, I’ve taken clean shots from guys like David Haye. At cruiserweight, I will feel invulnerable.”
Bellew’s cause may well be helped by his high WBC ranking. Current title holder Krzysztof Wlodarcyk has ruled since 2009, If the long-serving Pole is still there 12 months from now, the British hopeful would legitimately fancy his chances of fulfilling his ambitions second time around.
Former WBO featherweight world champion Steve Robinson is branching out into promoting, and will stage his first show in his home town of Cardiff on March 8th.
Britain’s very own Cinderella Man has remained heavily involved in the business since retiring as an active fighter, first training, then managing, so this is almost an inevitable next step for him. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” he said, “but now I’ve just decided to go for it. I’ve got a lot of people around me to help with the business side of things, like sponsorship and so on, so we’ll give it a go.
The idea is to put on a show every couple of months. This is just a logical step for me.”
Robinson currently manages three pro fighters, including his son Luke, as well as unbeaten cruiser Craig Kennedy and light welter Peter Ashton. Expect those three to see plenty of work under the Robinson promotional banner, but the new promoter insists it will be about much more than getting work for his own guys.
“There’s a lot of good young fighters in Wales just hoping for a break, and that’s my aim with this,” he said. “It would be great to be able to help some up and coming prospects. I’ve been there myself and I know what it’s like and how hard the game can be, so if I can give them a boost, that will be great.”
Robinson’s first show will feature a Welsh title fight for Kennedy against the tough, experienced Hari Miles.
As well as promoting, however, expect Robinson to be a proud father too, as Luke continues his fledgling pro career, and younger son Jacob continues to catch the eye in the amateurs. “Luke can be a good one,” says Robinson senior. “He has a lot of talent. He’s much more skilful than me. But he needs more aggression, the killer instinct that I had. If he finds that, and if he gets a break, he’ll be fine.
“Jacob has got a really good chance. He’s a southpaw, he’s tall, and he’s only a flyweight. He’s got a real hope of getting to the Commonwealth Games, and we’ll see what happens after that.”
South Wales has an abundance of burgeoning talent in the both the pro and amateur ranks at the moment. Robinson was a man in the right place at the right time when he won his world title back in 1993, and it looks as if his timing could be perfect once again.
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports. Tags: Tony Bellew