World-rated cruiserweight Tony Bellew returns to action tonight in a second warm-up bout since his impressive rematch victory over arch-rival Nathan Cleverly last November.
The 32 year-old had expected to be sharing a ring with one of the current crop of world champions by the end of the summer, although obstacles beyond the fighters control have stepped in the way and put the brakes on any title bid.
Since taking time out to shoot the new Rocky spin-off movie ‘Creed’, Bellew has made a conscious decision to keep active as ‘The Bomber’ awaits a potentially career-defining call to challenge for a 200 pound world title for the first time in his career.
A win over Ivica Baccurin in June represented Bellew’s first bout in seven months and the Merseysider didn’t disappoint as he put the experienced Croatian down three times on his way to a welcome tenth round triumph.
On Saturday night, Bellew steps into the ring on short notice to face the unheralded Latvian Arturs Kulikauskis, who despite his 16-26-5 record, is one of only two men to defeat highly-rated ex-interim WBA belt holder Youri Kalenga.
Taking the fight with just nine days to spare, Bellew will be without trainer Dave Coldwell for his outing in front of the Sky Sports cameras at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, but says the offer from Eddie Hearn to replace Callum Johnson was one he couldn’t refuse.
“It’s tough without Dave being here, but it’s the right thing for me to do,” Bellew exclusively told World Boxing News.
“I’ve been occupied with things like the movie and also the Baccurin fight not too long ago, but It’s about staying active and taking opportunities like this when they present themselves.
“I take good care of my body and this is why it allows me to take a fight like this on a week’s notice.
“I know my opponent is tough and has a good win over Yuri Kalenga so it should make for a good fight for the fans in Leeds.”
With a world title shot looming on the horizon, Bellew knows he has to tread carefully and cannot afford any slip-ups, whilst having faith in his team that once the perfect opportunity presents itself he will be able to take full advantage.
“I trust the people I surround myself with and I know they have my best interests at heart,” said Bellew. “They’ll come up with the plans for me regrading what we do going forward – but I wait for no one.
“I don’t mind who I fight when the title chance comes and we haven’t just stuck to focusing on one champion.
“I’ve had offers from Russia, Germany an America, so we will consider them all and then make our decision known when the time is right,” he added.