Tony Bellew is a huge outsider to defeat THE RING and WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson in Quebec City this Saturday, but the British star promises to deliver the colossal upset in a potentially explosive encounter.
Bellew, who lost a WBO title fight to Welshman Nathan Cleverly three years ago, has shown significant improvement since that setback. “The Bomber” reloaded his arsenal to ratchet up four wins and a draw, against solid opposition, and is now straining at the leash to get in the ring with Stevenson.
The Liverpool ace holds significant size and dimension advantages, which won’t hurt his chances against the self-proclaimed “Superman.” He has almost four-inches in height and a functional two-inch reach edge over the Canadian southpaw, which could be pivotal for Bellew in terms of controlling distance and avoiding return fire.
Perhaps even more surprising, for those who aren’t aware of Bellew’s background, is that the 30-year-old boxer-puncher campaigned in the heavyweight classification as an amateur. Stevenson, by contrast, was a super middleweight 13 months ago, and Bellew is likely to be the vastly bigger man come fight night.
The challenger is coming in off a non-descript draw and decision victory over Isaac Chilemba, but that form guide is very deceiving.
Chilemba, THE RING’s No. 7-rated light heavyweight, is an awkward customer and Bellew, after being disappointed with a tied result, displayed the capacity to adjust, and prevailed by unanimous decision over the crafty Malawian.
RingTV.com spoke to Tony Bellew (20-1-1, 12 knockouts) who unloaded with both barrels on the formidable champion whom he faces on Saturday night.
Ring TV.com: How have you been received across the Atlantic?
Tony Bellew: I’m in New York at the moment and I’ve been received very well as always. Training has been fantastic and I’m injury free and ready to go. I completed my final sparring session last week and went 12 rounds with fresh opponents, who were offered a thousand dollars if they could knock me out or put me down and, believe me, they were trying their best. I’ve been working with Olympic gold medalists, unbeaten professionals and veterans, so I’ve done it all, and I’m just waiting for fight night.
RTV: Who have you been working with in sparring?
TB: There’s been various names over here but I don’t know all of them. At home I was working with James DeGale, who is obviously a former Olympic gold medalist and highly ranked at super middleweight. We had a full week of hard sparring together and it was terrific stuff.
RTV: So no stone has been left unturned in preparation?
TB: It’s cliché to say that you’re in the greatest shape of your life, but I don’t need to say that. I’m always in great shape, but mentally I’m in a better place that I’ve ever been before. I’m so happy because I’ve done all the eliminators, beaten who was put in front of me and this is the big one. I’m ready to turn this division on its head and I will not be denied. Stevenson is the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed. I know what needs to be done and on Saturday night I’m going to do it.
RTV: What type of fight are we likely to see on Saturday night? Will it be technical or a fire fight?
TB: I’m going to use my brains early on. I’m not stupid enough to go out there and just trade punches with Adonis Stevenson, but I won’t run from him either. He’ll get a shock when I hit him back on the outside, and I’m the better fighter on the inside. Stevenson likes to leap in from mid to short range and explode with big punches and I’m aware of what he does. But I’m going in there to execute a game plan that I’ve been working on for 12 weeks and I know it’s going to work.
RTV: In his last two fights Stevenson has posted great wins over Chad Dawson and Tavoris Cloud. Were you impressed?
TB: You should never judge someone on two fights. If you look through the entirety of his career you’ll see Stevenson has problems when a fight goes late. Okay, he has a big punch, but if I take that away from him he’s just a midget, and when he connects on me he’ll get punched back for a change. He doesn’t have my bravery, and he’s not willing to travel to the same depths as me. I’ve dragged myself up from face first knockdowns and got up to win. He’s never done that, or shown that he can do it. Understand me on this, I will go to any level in order to win this fight. People seem to forget that up until Stevenson shocked the world (against Chad Dawson) he was a complete nobody. He struggled to beat Don George, he struggled against Aaron Pryor Jr. and he got knocked out by Darnell Boone. He got knocked out by a guy who had lost 20 fights. If I hit Stevenson flush, he’s going to sleep.
RTV: How do you match up against the southpaw stance?
TB: I’m fine with it because as an amateur the straight right was my best punch and I was knocking everyone out with that it. Then, when my opponents realized that shot was so dangerous, my left hook developed and became my best punch. Those two shots work well against lefties but, that aside, I’m confident we’re spot on tactically and I will use my brains in there.
RTV: Sergey Kovalev is on the same card and one gets the feeling that Stevenson might be looking past you. Is that the impression you get?
TB: We wanted a neutral referee and neutral judges and we have that for this fight. I’m not just up against Adonis Stevenson, but the might of HBO, Yvon Michel and Main Events. All these people want to see Stevenson vs. Kovalev and I’m the fly in the ointment, preventing that from happening. Well, after Nov. 30, nobody will want to see that fight because Adonis Stevenson is getting his ass whipped. Not just beat but knocked out, on his own patch, and there will no coming back from it. All of a sudden HBO will be forced to come to me and when they do I’ll say it’s a shame you weren’t so keen when I told you what was going to happen.
RTV: Do you need the knockout?
TB: I’m not getting a win on points, that’s the mindset I have. If this fight is close after 10 rounds then I’ll be swinging for the lights. If we go that far then I’ll be trading with him, because I’m convinced that I can knock him out. I’ve been down, but I’ve never been stopped whereas he has been stopped before. That’s a fact, it’s on paper, he’s been stopped by a far lesser man than me (Darnell Boone in 2010).
RTV: What version of Tony Bellew is Stevenson likely to meet at the final fight press conference?
TB: He’s getting the full brunt of it and there will be a few home truths in there that he won’t appreciate. I don’t like what he is or what he’s about and he annoys me. If he’s been offended by what I’ve said so far, then he’ll be hugely offended come the final press conference. You only need to read up on this guy’s past to know what he’s about and I’m going to beat up on the midget.
RTV: Can I have your thoughts on Carl Froch vs. George Groves?
TB: I’ve known George Groves since the amateurs, and I’ve always been impressed by his boxing ability and punching power. Also, anyone who doubts his bravery need to do some checking. I was in Poland with him (at an amateur tournament) when he fought two rounds with a badly broken jaw, so I know how gutsy George could be. That said I was surprised when he claimed center ring and dictated the range against Carl Froch. When he scored the knockdown in Round 1 it took Carl a few rounds to get over that and it was a great fight. I feel for both of them because Carl was robbed of his moment of glory (due to the early stoppage) but George Groves was stopped too quickly. Still, George may have hit the lottery here. I think he was five or ten seconds away from being knocked out and if that had happened he would have been labelled a front runner for the rest of his career. Now we’ve swung around the other way and Carl Froch is the villain of boxing, and George Groves is the darling of the sport. George is also in a powerful position for the rematch, which will be huge. It was an early call by the referee, but I personally don’t believe George was going to survive that round. The referee’s decision making reminded me of (Arturo) Gatti vs. (Micky) Ward, when )referee) Frank Cappuccino allowed Gatti to fight on, in Round 9. No other fighter on the planet would have been allowed to take that punishment, but the referee gave Gatti the benefit of the doubt because of his warrior mentality. That’s what happened on Saturday. If George Groves had been as badly hurt as Carl was in Round 1 then I believe the referee would have stopped the fight, and that means reputation is playing a part in the game, when it shouldn’t. It’s wrong that George gets the reputation for being this chinny kid, because he’s not a vulnerable fighter. He’s been down a couple of times, and it is what it is, but boxing can be so fickle. In the space of an hour Carl Froch went from hero to villain which is crazy. He did nothing wrong.
Photos / Scott Heavey-Getty Images
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing