How Tony Bellew channelled 2011 press conference for Creed role

Phil Jay 16/01/2016

Liverpool’s Tony Bellew is currently reaping the rewards of a fantastic movie debut in big screen blockbuster ‘Creed’ as the Rocky spin-off takes Europe by storm on the back of considerable success in the United States.

The 33 year-old took to the red carpet for the UK Premiere of the seventh film in the Rocky franchise earlier this week, just days on from co-star and creator Sylvester Stallone winning a Best Supporting Actor award at the coveted Golden Globes ceremony.

Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis Johnson/Creed in the box office hit, whilst Bellew plays opposite the respected actor as ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan despite having no experience in the business whatsoever. Conlan, like Bellew, pulls no punches with his words and carries the weight of a city on his shoulders as he tries to provide for his family.

Stallone chose Bellew after knowing the fighter for some time due to his own love affair with Everton FC as the Hollywood superstar was sure the two-time world title challenger was up to the task of bringing a rawness to the movie – and he was right.

Although Bellew may have calmed down somewhat over the past few years, there was a time when ‘The Bomber’ was more feared for what he may do in the pre-fight build-up rather than on fight night.

There were plenty on instances of intimidation in the early part of Bellew’s professional career – as was his own nature – coupled with his feared mindset of an opponent taking food out of his kids mouths. But it wasn’t until the-then light-heavyweight contender met rival Nathan Cleverly that his persona came to the forefront on the big stage.

Bellew was initially drafted in to face Welshman Cleverly at just two days’ notice in May 2011 as a late replacement for German Juergen Braehmer and that’s when Stallone’s Creed baddie Conlan was ultimately born.

Sitting either side of promoter Frank Warren, the pair engaged in a war of words, but it was Bellew who took the initiative and seized the opportunity to make a name for himself. Giving Cleverly both barrels and more, Bellew, who was Commonwealth champion at the time, even offered to fight ‘Clev’ in the car park, whilst labelling him ‘a little rat’ as security struggled to subdue him.

Despite being ruled out shortly afterwards due to weight issues, Bellew continued his bad blood with Cleverly right up until they finally signed a contract to battle each other in his hometown later that same year.

A press conference in Wales saw the police called due to some tongue-in-cheek threats made by Bellew, whilst you could have cut the tension at the Liverpool leg with a knife. Even at the weigh-in, you could sense that Bellew could explode at any moment, although he did have this knack of making fans feel at ease with the situation whilst in the mode of psyching out his opponent.

There was never any danger that a punch would be thrown at a presser or weigh-in, which isn’t the case in the movie, but you always had that sense of fear surrounding Bellew which always gave him that extra edge – which he has now fully capitalized on.

Essentially, Bellew plays himself in the film – even if that side of him is a lot more laid back these days, but if you put Cleverly in front of him again – as was the case in 2014, that side of him can still be brought to the fore.

Taking his acting debut into account, as with fellow sportsman-turned-actor Vinnie Jones when he starred in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on the back of a football career, Bellew could conceivably forge out a career on the big screen as long as he can adapt to different roles and not get typecast as the heel.

In the immediate future, there is still a world title to be won, whilst Bellew should also bask in his current success as one of only a handful of celebrated opponents in Rocky’s much-loved history, alongside Clubber Lang, Thunderlips, Ivan Drago and the movie’s namesake Apollo.