Although Tony Bellew aspires to unify the cruiserweight division, he has also voiced concerns about facing some of the division’s leading fighters.
Since becoming the WBC world champion via a devastating third round stoppage over Ilunga Makabu, Bellew has already been linked to many names including former WBC belt holder and champion in recess Grigory Drozd, as well as current WBA and IBF unified champ Denis Lebedev.
Both fighters hail from Russia, a country that has been embroiled in drug scandals over the past few years with heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin the latest to have failed a doping test and Bellew is wary of the situation in the eastern nation.
Champion in recess Drozd has been out of action for over a year through a succession of injuries but has recently aired his plans to exercise his right to an immediate fight with Bellew.
“There is a big problem with athletes from Russia at the minute and it is a worrying time for the sport,” Bellew exclusively told World Boxing News.
“I make nothing of what Drozd says and I am not going to Russia to fight him – he is irrelevant. He has many questions that he needs to answer and we will see what happens with him. How can he say that he has been injured for two years and then all of a sudden say he is ready to fight, it’s not right.
“I’m now the champion and I will represent the sanctioning body in the best way I can.”
Following his dramatic victory last weekend, Bellew was quick to call out Lebedev for a possible unification clash with three of the four main 200lb belts on the line.
He said: “Of course I want the Lebedev fight and it is a dream of mine to unify the division, but once again he is from Russia and I am not willing to fight there. He is a great fighter and he has my respect but if he is not willing to come out of Russia then we are at loggerheads and the fight will not happen.
“As good as Lebedev is, he wouldn’t have done to Makabu what I did on Sunday night and I did go and do it. I have the best belt and I believe that I am the best.”
Matt Horan is lead writer for WBN. Follow on Twitter @mhoran123