By Alex Beard (@alex_beard17)
Tony Bellew did everything he said he’d do on Saturday night, KO’ing BJ Flores in the third round to successfully defend his WBC cruiserweight world title in Liverpool.
Bellew (28-2-1-KO18) had his man down three times in the second, before ending proceedings in the following round with a thunderous left hook during a furious exchange in the pocket.
After the fight ‘Bomber’ charged towards the ropes and immediately began yelling at Haye, who the Liverpudlian has had heated exchanges with before, demanding a catch-weight contest with the former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion.
Bellew then told Sky Sports: “You see him [Haye]? He’s been conning the public since his pathetic comeback started. The last two guys you fought are working on nightclub doors, or they’re putting the bins out. You see you? You’re gonna get smashed too.
“With 10 ounce gloves on, I’ll put you and your pathetic haircut to sleep. Brother, I’m the biggest payday you’ve got right now.”
Clearly, the fight with Haye is an extremely high-profile one. The weight issue would need to be ironed out of course, but Bellew has said that he is willing to go above the cruiserweight limit of 200 pounds – if not up to the heavyweight division itself – while Haye has always been undersized for a heavyweight.
Cruiserweight, though, is the place to be right now. Traditionally a little-noticed weightclass, there are now several top-level fighters bustling for position at the top of the division, providing Bellew with no small choice of opponents.
Bellew has also spoken in the past of his desire to unify the division, and to do so he would do well to take on IBF and WBA champ Denis Lebedev (29-2-KO22). Lebedev is defending his titles against Murat Gassiev on December 3 and would therefore be available for a unification bout in the spring. His second round stoppage of Victor Emilio Ramirez in May was a warning to the rest of the division and he will feel that he is the cream of the crop at 200 pounds.
Grigory Drozd (40-1-KO28) is an extremely experienced Russian who is actually rated as the number one fighter in the division by The Ring magazine, but has not fought in over a year due to injury, which led to his WBC title being stripped from him – allowing Bellew to claim it. Drozd hasn’t lost for 10 years, since a fifth round stoppage to Firat Arslan. He would surely be keen to reclaim his belt, and if he can get fit enough he would present a formidable challenge for Bellew.
Then, of course, there’s arguably the most talented boxer in the weightclass – Oleksandr Usyk (10-0-KO9). Usyk, a gold medal winner at London 2012, claimed the WBO title last month with a supreme display against the previously unbeaten Krzysztof Glowacki, winning via unanimous decision. Usyk has by far the best footwork in the division and has enough pop in his shots to keep any opponent at bay. Bellew himself rates Usyk very highly and any match-up between the two would be a mouth-watering contest.
The man Bellew may be fighting next, however, is mandatory challenger Mairis Briedis (21-0-KO18). Briedis fought on the undercard in Liverpool at the weekend, stopping Simon Vallily in three rounds and building his profile before a possible fight with the champion. Briedis looks to be a hard hitter, and we all know Bellew loves a slugfest, so that defence could turn out to be an explosive affair.
After many years of hard graft Bellew wants the big paydays, and who can blame him? He may feel there is no better time to face Haye, who is yet to fight a capable opponent since his return, but the reality is he gains very little from that fight other than money. If he wins, he will have beaten a past-his-best name fighter, but if he loses he will be left with egg on his face.
The most exciting fights for Bellew are in his own division. The cruiserweight division is flourishing right now, with so many talented fighters competing to be the best. Bellew has stated that he feels he is the premier cruiserweight in the world, but to prove that he must face the likes of Lebedev, Drozd, and Usyk and forego a money-fight with Haye.by