Albert Bell knew well enough to curb his enthusiasm when the conversation came up to potentially fight for a major title.
It was great if it happened, but the primary focus for the unbeaten 130-pound from Toledo, Ohio was to just have a fight to look forward to regardless of the stakes. Rather than waiting on a title shot against Jamel Herring (21-2, 10KOs) as once discussed—or any of the 130-pound titlists—Bell gets to keep the line moving, beginning with his scheduled 10-round clash versus Philippines’ Mark Bernaldez (20-3, 14KOs) this Thursday at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas (ESPN, 8:00pm ET/5:00pm PT).
“There was some talk about possibly fighting Jamel, and I saw him mention in an interview that he’d be interested in fighting me if it meant keeping him busy,” Bell (16-0, 5KOs) explained to BoxingScene.com. “[Top Rank] asked me about fighting him, and of course I want to fight for the world title.
“It’s not happening, but I’m just happy to be back in the ring, for real”
Interestingly, Bell’s fight was originally to have served as the chief support to Herring’s planned voluntary title defense versus Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo. The reigning WBO 130-pound titlist will still go through with that fight, which will now take place on July 14 due to Herring testing positive for COVID-19 but having since fully recovered.
Meanwhile, Bell still gets to participate in a series that has served as a proven goldmine for those who made sure to remain ready for any opportunity offered. A number of upsets have already taken place on the closed-doors boxing series in Las Vegas since Top Rank returned to the fold on June 9—the first televised fight card in the United States in nearly three months due to the ongoing coronavirus.
Limitations on opponent selection due to travel restrictions means a quicker path to the top for those in position to seize the moment.
“It wasn’t ideal for anyone, but they’re talking about me fighting for a world title sometime this year,” Bell points out. “I’m always in shape, I’m always ready to fight. When we couldn’t have full training camps, I made sure to stay sharp. I got my cardio in, worked out at privately owned gyms and just made the most of it.”
The reward is being able to fight at a time when most others in his position are otherwise waiting for that phone call before making their next move. A win on Thursday is expected to lead to something bigger for the unbeaten 27-year old rising prospect, which could happen anytime he’s ready and willing to return to the ring.
“When I got the call for this fight, I told myself that three fights in 2020 would be ideal,” notes Bell, who hasn’t fought since an eight-round shutout of Frank De Alba last October, coming four months after edging out Andy Vences in their battle of unbeaten prospects last June. “The first part is to get that win on Thursday. After that, I’d like to get a title eliminator and then a title shot.
“If I can get a big name for my next fight, then I’ll be fine with having only one more fight this year.”
With Bell and Herring still fighting in the general vicinity of each other, wins by both could lead to closure in their previously discussed pairing.
“Look, I respect Jamel a lot and I know people tried to make more out of what was said between us,” Bell notes. “I only respond to people. I don’t do the talking. That’s what rappers do. They can talk that stuff without anything happening. We’re fighters. We don’t need to talk, we can actually get in the ring and punch each other. It’s not that hard. All I look to do is clear my name and leave it at that. I don’t get into all that.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about getting a shot at them world champions. Whichever one I get in the ring with first is fine. Jamel said he’d be interested in fighting me if it keeps him busy. So, let’s just get this win and see if we can give him that chance to keep him busy.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox