by Shaun Brown
Reece Bellotti is the new Commonwealth Featherweight champion.
The 26-year-old, trained by Jim McDonnell, survived his biggest test to date against the champion Jason Cunningham (23-4, 6 KOs) in front of an enthralled crowd at York Hall tonight.
From the first second Watford's Bellotti (11-0, 10 KOs) was all aggression with Cunningham's experience of having 16 fights more showing with the cleverer and more disciplined work.
Bellotti's aggression saw him follow the champion around the ring and while Cunningham was wary of the challenger's reputable power he was absorbing what the 26-year-old had to offer, which came mainly from attacking the body.
In the second round it was clear that Bellotti was wanting a trade-off, and Cunningham - as he admitted afterwards - obliged and perhaps shouldn't have.
The quantity lay with Bellotti but the quality was coming from Cunningham, the 28-year-old Yorkshireman had the cleaner technique but yet again found himself in another trade-off in the final 45 seconds of the third.
Cunningham's uppercuts had done damage to Bellotti's nose in the fourth. The challenger bloodied, but unrelenting in his pursuit of the Commonwealth title to add to the WBC International Silver strap he won against Jamie Speight earlier this year.
Bellotti was being hit with the more telling combinations of the pair and it seemed like the all-out attack plan of the challenger may have been struggling to find substance. Going into the fifth round Boxing Scene had the champion 3-1 up in rounds, but the fight turned dramatically when Bellotti's power rang true and dropped Cunningham with a big right hook with 20 seconds to. Two uppercuts prior to that may have done the damage allowing Bellotti to nail Cunningham with a shot that changed the fight completely.
It didn't take long for Bellotti to end matters in the sixth. Another thudding right hand opened Cunningham up, a neck snapping uppercut followed by two hooks ended the champion's reign in just his first defence. A conclusive finish to a fight that had the York Hall atmosphere ramped up as normal.
Bellotti said post-fight that he didn't panic at the fact that his power wasn't doing the damage that some might have expected.
"Not necessarily looking for the power all the time it was whether I'd get to him in the end. My fitness tells in there. We work hard in training. My first 12-rounder, so I was at the next level. I've had very good sparring with John Joe Nevin.
"I knew from the start I wanted to start fast with every round and keep that pace. If you watch Golovkin, his foot pressure, his pace in the fight, he doesn't necessarily throw a lot of punches but his foot work does the work for him and I've learned a lot from that."
Asked whether or not he would have to tighten up defensively as he moved into bigger fights, Bellotti said: "Like Golovkin, gotta give him another mention, I like a good fight, I like a show for the fans and that's what we gave tonight."
Cunningham said he wants to fight Bellotti again and couldn't believe he had lost after controlling much of the fight.
"I don't know how to put it. I thought I were winning the fight up until that point. I was boxing smart, started exchanging when I shouldn't have done. Should have kept to my boxing. Got caught that's all there is to it. I'm gutted because I felt I was comfortably winning the fight but all respect to Reece he pulled the punch out the bag.
"I were busting him up bad. His nose had gone bad. Odd body shot I could feel. I were bossing that fight up until that point."