If things had worked out differently, this could have been the week former WBC cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew returned to the ring.

After retiring following defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in 2018, via an eighth-round stoppage, Liverpool’s Bellew called it quits and did not think about looking back.

But, over time, he thought about ending his story with a different chapter and the 41-year-old held talks to fight Poland’s Lukasz Rozanski for the WBC bridgerweight title.

Rozanski now fights former WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie on Friday night in Poland.

“It was a conversation that was a possibility, and it never really went anywhere,” said Bellew’s former trainer Dave Coldwell.

“I’m not behind him coming back, full stop. But, with that fight, that one opponent, and for what he wanted to do, it was a case of let’s get back in the gym, let’s see where you’re at. 

“I don’t want any of this ’16 weeks and I’m fighting’. I want a good, long stretch, getting in the gym, see how you are and then we will make a call. We won’t ever know until we start back sparring, and that was always my point of view.”

Bellew and Coldwell had a glorious spell together, that included the two big wins over David Haye and Coldwell admitted the lure for Bellew was the opportunity for him to “end his story a different way.” 

“It’s always down to the opponent and what I think you’ve got left, because in the gym you could look great and that’s what I said to him, ‘I won’t know until you start sparring’,” Coldwell explained. “So there’s a lot of work and graft to be done until you get to that point because that’s when you then know what you’ve got left. There’s no way I’d let him carry on if, once we’d started sparring, and he’d had a little bit of time to shake off the sparring rust, if I saw in his movements and reactions he wasn’t there. Then I’d have pulled the plug anyway.”

And the comeback was entirely based around the possibility of facing Rozanski, who is 15-0 (14 KOs) but yet to face anything like world class quality.

“That’s why I was open to allowing him to consider it, to see where he’s at,” Coldwell added. “Because without being disrespectful, it was never about taking him lightly, it was looking at the styles match up, looking at the flaws in the man, and thinking right, let’s see where Bellew’s at, because if Bellew’s Bellew, then Bellew takes him apart. No doubt about that. But if he’s nowhere near where what he once was, then abort mission.” 

Bellew and Coldwell have remained friends. Coldwell has a young stable of fighters today but insisted there was no way he was going to let the romance of the comeback let him make decisions with his head over his heart, and with that in mind he never got over-excited by the prospect of it.

“When it’s something like this, when it’s somebody you’re close to, somebody you’ve worked with, and it’s years since he last fought, you can’t let your emotions get involved,” Coldwell said. “You have to be very, very sensible and you have to allow him to have to have the thought process in his head because that’s part of the coping mechanism in his head. 

“You have to allow him to process the thoughts and put it into action, but then you can’t be excited with him and be emotional about it, because you’ve got to look after his well-being, you’ve got to judge what he can come back with and is it going to tarnish what he’s achieved and the career that he’s had. 

“So, in that sense, I wasn’t allowing myself to get excited about it to be honest. I always said to him, ‘I’m going to be brutally honest’, and what I felt where he was at, I would then say, ‘Let’s go for it’ or ‘It’s not [happening]’. There’s nothing emotional about that, you’re dealing with someone’s health and well-being.”