My Favourite Fighter: Tony Bellew
By Aidan O’Connor
When I look back on all the fights I can remember watching, there are two that stand out for me and both feature the same fighter.
Tony Bellew vs Ilunga Makabu at Goodison Park for the WBC Cruiserweight title, the real like Rocky story as it was being promoted and Bellew vs David Haye. In both fights Bellew showing that being the underdog means nothing when you have heart and determination on your side.
My earliest memory of Bellew, being an Everton fan, was in 2014 when I was just really starting to take an interest in combat sports. We would see him walking around outside the ground after match days, taking pictures with and talking to the fans, and that formed my initial interest in him.
The same year I attended my first ever boxing show. It was Bellew vs Nathan Cleverley 2, not a great start to me going to live shows as the fight was largely a disappointment, with an average at best undercard, the highlight being Anthony Joshua stopping Michael Sprott inside a round.
However, this wouldn’t deter me. Over the next 2 years, I would continuously see him being interviewed on IFL TV and I kept a keen eye on his career.
Then came Creed, which brought Bellew more mainstream attention. A lead role in a huge film specifically built around boxing.
Everyone who loves combat sports has seen the Rocky films so this above anything else was extremely great exposure for him.
After the film came Makabu – The real Rocky story. Bellew had always had one wish that he wanted in his career and that was to fight at Goodison Park. In interviews he would state how much it would mean to him and he was awarded exactly that, but not just any fight either, a world title shot.
Bellew went into the fight as the underdog, but as we know, this means nothing to Bellew. If anything, it inspires him. He came into some adversary in the opening round being knocked down and breaking his nose in the process. As he got knocked down, the hearts sank of the entirety of the stadium, but he climbed to his feet and he put on an incredible performance, knocking Makabu out cold in the third round.
After the referee had called a halt to the fight you could see the pure emotion running from Bellew, he was a man of the people and they, and myself, had witnessed something incredible on that night.
After the fight he called out David Haye, I remember speaking to my friends at the time and even I had doubts about that fight, little did I know.
Fast forward a few months and Bellew took on BJ Flores a friend of Haye’s who had 32 wins and only 2 losses on his record.
Another third-round knockout by Bellew and he finally had his chance, with Haye sat on the side commentating on the fight. He called him out and jumped out of the ring to get to him, this had gotten somewhat personal between the two and tensions were building. The fight was on.
In the build-up to the fight, it was very much Haye that was the villain in most instances, he had completely disregarded Bellew as a credible opponent. Haye saw Bellew as nothing but a stepping stone on his quest back to the top. In the press conferences leading up to the fight, he also threw a punch and struck Bellew in the face which raised the tensions even more.
Then came the fight, Bellew at a huge 3/1 underdog on many bookmakers’ odds was ready to do the impossible. It was evident that he was able to stand toe to toe with Haye for as long as what was needed, landing some heavy shots whilst absorbing what came back with ease.
It was going pretty much as planned for Bellew, he was landing more shots and seemed to be the sharper fighter in the early rounds.
Then it happened, Haye had suffered a ruptured Achilles, at this point the referee should have stopped it but Haye bravely fought on.
All credit to Haye for doing so, but Bellew eventually went on to win the fight by TKO in the eleventh round.
The rematch soon came around and Bellew dominated from start to finish and put all the doubt about the outcome of the first fight to bed. If nothing else Bellew had taught me a valuable lesson. No matter how many people doubt you, you are the only thing holding yourself back, if you believe in your ability nobody can take that away from you.
That is why Tony Bellew is my favourite fighter.