By Matt Bevan
Tony Bellew is confident that he will be the first man to put Mateusz Masternak on the floor, and the first to make him stay there, as the two men prepare to do battle for the vacant European cruiserweight title at the O2 Arena in London this Saturday.
Bellew, 33, currently holds a record of (25-2-1, 16 KOs) and is expecting Masternak to provide him with some stern competition and make up for some lost time after filming the movie, Creed.
“The Bomber” exercised some demons last November by gaining revenge on domestic rival Nathan Cleverly, however due to filming commitments he has only picked up straight forward victories over no opponent of note since then.
But, he knows it will be totally different with Masternak, whose record stands at (36-3, 26 KOs) as Bellew believes the Pole is a huge threat and the Liverpool man firmly agrees that this is his hardest fight since his 2013 loss to WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson.
Speaking to Boxing Scene, Bellew said: “Everything is at stake in this fight with Masternak. I enjoy being in close, hard fights and this one certainly fits the bill. He is similar to me, in that he is in the prime of his career and he’s very well rounded and well-schooled.
“He doesn't do anything fantastic, but he does everything well. He’s a former European champion, so he knows how to fight, but we’ll find out just how good he is on Saturday. He has lost three, but only one of them was genuine, and that was the Grigory Drozd loss. I think his fight with Youri Kalenga could have gone either way, whilst he was robbed in South Africa against Johnny Muller.
“This fight is as hard as I want to make it. If I stay composed, keep control of my emotions and listen to my coach, Dave Coldwell, then I’ll do a job on him and be the first to put him down, and the first to make him stay there.”
Bellew knows a win over Masternak puts him in the reckoning for some big fights in 2016, in what is an exciting cruiserweight division. It is a prospect that clearly excites “The Bomber”, who moved up in weight last year.
He reveals that Argentine IBF champion, Victor Ramirez, who drew with Bellew’s former victim Ovill McKenzie, refused to take a career high payday to fight him on the bill, and says his next opponent in Masternak is a better fighter than him anyway.
He is also looking forward to appearing on another big bill in the UK, his first since he headlined against Cleverly last November in his hometown, although he knows the fight failed to live up to the media hype that surrounded it.
“My only regret about doing the movie was where it has put my boxing career. It’s put me a couple of steps back and I could have capitalised on that and fought a nobody, but I don't want to do that. I want to be in exciting fights.
“There’s plenty of those in the cruiserweight division, which is so even. There aren't any easy fights and the worst out of the top 10 is one of the champions in Ramirez, who refused to fight me, despite being offered a career high payday.
“The best is probably Oleksandr Usyk, the former Olympic Champion, but everyone is well matched. This fight with Masternak has captured the imagination of the sanctioning bodies and probably exceeds the European title. I was told that it could have been for a “Regular” world title, but I’m not interested in that, as the last thing I want to be considered is a “Plastic” World Champion.
“I love being on these big bills, but they’re not as enjoyable the further down the bill you are. The Cleverly rematch was big and had plenty of media attention, but didn't live up to the hype, which is down to him. I don't want to be a support act, I want to be the act. But, I’ll get back up there and believe you me, I will look good on Saturday.”
Matt Bevan is part of Boxing Scene's UK team. Follow him on Twitter @MBevs68