By Kevin Francis, courtesy of The Daily Star
TONY BELLEW has hit back at critics who knocked him for claiming he was “willing to die” in the ring against Isaac Chilemba.
Scouser Bellew meets Malawian Chilemba in a light-heavyweight scrap on tonight’s big Carl Froch-Mikkel Kessler bill at London’s O2 Arena.
It’s a rematch following their uneventful draw in Liverpool in March when both fighters were tussling to win a mandatory shot at the WBC title.
Bellew, 29, upset many people with his comments ahead of that bout but stands by everything he said.
“Without doubt that is my view,” he said. “By climbing in between those ropes and taking heavy punches you are at risk.
“How can people who have never taken a punch in their life tell me what I can or can’t say?
“I’m not saying I want to die but I’ll keep fighting until I’ve got nothing left. Most fighters will tell you they’ll never quit.
“There is a genuine risk and I wish people would accept this. People are shocked when fighters get hurt. I can’t be blaming anyone else if my career ends in this fight or any fight.
“I can’t be blaming people after the worst has happened. I prepare for the worst. I wish people would realise how dangerous boxing is.
“It’s not a sport, it’s brutality at the highest level. They can dress it up however they want. But I’m too honest for my own good sometimes and it’s not my battle to fight.
“Everyone’s had a pop at me for what I said but I stand by it. I expected a really hard fight because he matches up so well to me.”
A bore draw resulted because of the defensive tactics adopted by a negative Chilemba, 26.
But Bellew said: “I can’t help it if someone doesn’t want to know and doesn’t want to fight me. It takes two to make a great fight and you can’t do it on your own.
“But I have suffered because of that. I’ll never go into a fight again saying it’s going to be a great fight. I get in with these guys and hit them for the first time and they don’t want to know. Chilemba didn’t want to know in the first six rounds.
“That’s the spoiling tactics these fighters are going to use but I am going to have to be wise and adapt to them now.”
Bellew has watched the fight back and though he maintains that in his opinion he did enough to win, he concedes it is not great to watch.
“I didn’t give myself a break, I didn’t go for a pint with the lads as I usually do. I just went home, watched the tape and got really annoyed,” he added.
“Annoyance passed to frustration and then I just wanted to get back in the gym and start running again. I had two days off and got back into the gym.
“Now I aim to get rid of all that pent-up frustration this time around and show just how good I am.”
PREDICTION: Bellew is in a mean mood and I take him to win around the sixth.