“The Bomber” is an apt moniker for Liverpool’s Tony Bellew. The excitable boxer-puncher is known for being as explosive at pre-fight press conferences as he is in the ring, and this Saturday the 31-year-old promises more dynamite when he meets hard-hitting Julio Cesar Dos Santos in his second bout as a cruiserweight.
“Every time I hit an opponent in this weight class I get a reaction,” said Bellew, who competed as a heavyweight in the amateur ranks but fought all his significant pro bouts prior to last March at light heavyweight. “At 175 pounds it was difficult to nail guys who were quick and elusive. At cruiserweight I can pick a shot and I know it’s going to land. I’m the faster man now and I carry power, as well as speed.”
At 175 pounds Bellew captured British and Commonwealth titles, and twice challenged for world honors against Nathan Cleverly and Adonis Stevenson. He fell short and made his inevitable cruiserweight debut against former world title challenger Valery Brudov, prevailing by 12th-round knockout after decking his man three times.
“The Bomber” was happy with the performance, but believes he is still improving at the weight.
“My body-fat percentage is getting lower,” said Bellew, who is 21-2-1 (13 knockouts). “I’m allowed to eat more calories but, at the same time, I’m throwing far more power punches. At light heavyweight I held back on power shots to conserve energy, whereas now I’m mixing in 30 or 40 per round.
“I’m a lot more tired after training, so I need plenty of rest and my diet has to be spot on.”
So the cruiserweight Bellew has arrived and now Julio Cesar Dos Santos ventures to the U.K. with some serious artillery of his own. The 36-year-old Brazilian is 26-2 with 23 KOs and has never been stopped in a six-year professional career. He was outclassed by No. 7-rated Dmytro Kucher last year, but his hitting power and experience at this weight must be respected.
“Dos Santos brings durability and he’s steady,” said Bellew, in earnest. “He’s a good all-rounder who does nothing great and he’ll be banking on grinding me down in the late rounds. He does bring positives, but my speed and variety should force the stoppage.
“I want to be tested because I don’t see the point in working hard for 10 weeks to go in there with a patsy. If you want to fight for a world title then you’re going to run into big cruiserweights and you’ll get found out if you don’t have the necessary experience.”
The course of the conversation inevitably swung in the direction of Bellew’s arch rival, Nathan Cleverly, who meets Argentine Alejandro Emilio Valori on the same show at Liverpool’s Echo Arena. The Welshman, who debuted at 200 pounds with a second-round stoppage of the overmatched Shawn Corbin in April, is still finding his feet as a cruiserweight, but one man is seriously unimpressed.
“This Valori has had 19 fights with four losses,” said Bellew, with clear and expected disdain. “Basically this is Shawn Corbin wrapped up in different paper and although the guy is a natural cruiserweight, he’s been stopped by light heavyweights. The guy is conning the public, he’s having a laugh.”
Providing Bellew and Cleverly come through this weekend, Matchroom Promotions will look to strike a deal for a rematch of their first encounter, which took place three years ago. Bellew more than held his own that night but suffered his first loss, by majority decision, and has been desperate for revenge ever since.
“There are plans for us to fight in October or November,” said Bellew, who refuses to address Cleverly by name. “He understands that at cruiserweight this is a completely different fight. I won’t be dying after 6 rounds of action and, this time, my power will be a threat from start to finish.
“Last time he’d won British, Commonwealth, European and world titles and defended them all. I got that title shot because I could shift tickets and I had a big mouth, but I’d only had 16 fights. Since then if any of us have improved it’s me. I’ve fought the tougher opponents and came through stiffer tests. He had one test, against Sergey Kovalev, and was blown away.”
Bellew continued, “We both have to win on July 12 and then my plan is to get him in the ring, before the end of the year, and retire him. I can guarantee there will not be one single seat left on the night. Everyone knows how good the first fight was, although the rematch will be vastly different.
“He will not survive – it’s as simple as that.”
British fans can see the Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly double header on Sky Sports 1 from 7.00pm. Tickets are still available from www.matchroom.com
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing