Two-time light-heavyweight world title challenger Tony Bellew has been handed a dream debut at cruiserweight with a return to his beloved home turf of Liverpool at the Echo Arena on March 15.
The 31 year-old, who lost out to big-hitting WBC champion Adonis Stevenson at the back end of 2013, is in training to build himself up the necessary 25lbs to the cruiserweight limit as Bellew and promoter Eddie Hearn plot another assault on a recognised belt.
Bellew is no stranger to the higher mark having competed at cruiserweight in the amateur ranks many times, and the staunch Evertonian is currently honing his body in preparation for his eagerly-awaited spring bow at 200lbs.
“I feel great,” Bellew told World Boxing News. “I’m at 205lbs right now so I’m happy.
“Training is going well and I’d say that I’ve got about ten pounds of fat to shed, but my body has been craving it for the last 5 years. It’s going to take a month getting used to the training at this weight, but as for fighting that’s not going to be a problem.
“Everybody is saying; ‘How is he going to take punches off these much bigger guys?’ “Well the fact of the matter is I’m actually still bigger than most of them and the best ones are the same size as me so it’s not going to be a problem.
“I have performed for my country around the world and won numerous ABA titles at this weight and it will be nice to have quicker hands and sharper reflexes than my opponents for once.”
Heading back to home comforts is the ideal beginning to what can be a fresh start for Bellew after almost a year away from the city. It also gives ‘The Bomber’ the chance to make amends after he was disappointed with his own performance against Isaac Chilemba the last time he fought at Liverpool’s Docklands.
“I’m really happy to be back at home, Liverpool is a great fighting city and the people don’t all show up to see me. The card has to stacked and that’s what Matchroom do and we get great numbers cos of that. Names such as Swifty (Stephen Smith), Callum and Paul Smith, Rocky Fielding, Tom Stalker and Tony Dodson are big attractions,” pointed out Bellew.
“l feel I let everyone down last time I boxed at home so it’s going to be great to show everyone what I’m capable of and give them a glimpse of what’s in store for the next chapter of my career.”
One opponent in particular was immediately mentioned following Bellew’s move up and that was old foe Nathan Cleverly, who made the jump himself just a couple of months prior following a fourth round loss to Sergey Kovalev.
A rematch between the two would be a massive draw, potentially for a world title further down the line, and after being rated at number seven with the WBC at his new weight, Bellew is not too far off a possible clash with reigning champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk.
“I believe I have earned my stripes at 175lbs against the best that division has to offer so I want a world ranked guy. I want someone who is respected at this weight and possibly someone dangerous. I don’t want a knock over job,” he emphasized.
“At this weight I know l will benefit massively. I won’t be shedding huge amounts of weight and I’ll also be a lot happier with it. There is nothing worse than preparing like a maniac through camp for ten weeks and then battling the scales too. Something has had to give and unfortunately that was me.
“I hope to become a mandatory challenger or possibly fight for an actual title this year. Anything is possible when you are active and the one thing I can say is I am a very active fighter. Under Matchroom and Eddie you are given every opportunity under the sun. I mean what other fighter boxed five championship contests in 14 months? I did and that’s all down to them.
“I will fight in March and baring injury I’ll be out at least two or three more times before the year is out. That final one could well be another world title fight and fingers crossed it’s third time lucky as I will not give up on my dream of becoming a genuine world champion.”