Tony Bellew talks “Creed”, his ring return, and title ambitions
British cruiserweight contender Tony Bellew has been out of action for the past seven months and, for once, has been forced to pull his punches.
Earlier this year the Liverpool native traveled to the United States to film scenes for the latest installment of the “Rocky” series, “Creed”, and while many would agree the outspoken 31-year-old possesses a movie villain personality, he has desperately missed hitting people for real.
“I enjoyed the experience of filming a movie but I’ve really missed fighting,” said Bellew, who will face late replacement Ivica Bacurin on Friday in his home city.
“When I look back at ‘Creed’ it was an unbelievable adventure that has given me great memories. It was fun at times but stressful when I missed my family. Still, if someone had said to me years ago, you’re going to be in a Rocky movie then I would have just laughed. I still can’t believe it, even now.”
In November Bellew (23-2-1, 14 knockouts) scored his most satisfying victory. Headlining a huge Pay-Per-View event in the U.K. he avenged a light heavyweight loss to bitter rival Nathan Cleverly, but the eagerly anticipated showdown failed to deliver on the action it promised.
“It was bitter sweet,” said Bellew with a sigh. “I’m over the moon that I got the win but I’m disappointed with the way it came. He (Cleverly) didn’t come to fight and, after feeling a few shots, drifted into survival mode.
“I said after the first fight that I would beat him in a rematch and I actually did what nobody thought I could do. I outpointed and out boxed Nathan Cleverly. Fans were disappointed because I promised a knockout but it’s hard to stop a journeyman who comes to survive, far less a former world titleholder.”
So Sylvester Stallone and action choreography followed, but Bellew insists that his Hollywood venture was temporary and his mind is fully focused on boxing.
He said, “I’ve missed performing more than anything in the world. There were people out there saying I’m an actor now but listen, I’m a boxer. I’m a fighter and I love it. I’m just one of those people who feel like I was born to fight.
“I could have been back earlier, on May 30, for a world title fight with IBF champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez but I didn’t have sufficient time to prepare. I was in Philadelphia (filming “Creed”) in the middle of March and I needed time to adjust and get back into training.”
When Bellew and this reporter spoke last week his opponent was a hard-hitting Czech by the name of Lubos Suda. Today it was announced that Suda has withdrawn and Ivica Bacurin has filled the void, but for all intents and purposes this is a scheduled tool sharpener ahead of bigger business.
Bellew said, “We’ve had repeat talks with Yoan Pablo Hernandez and my promoter (Eddie Hearn) is looking to make the best possible deal for me. It does look like Hernandez, but I wouldn’t rule out fighting any of the champions. The only thing I won’t do is travel to Germany (to fight WBO titleholder Marco Huck) because I could knock someone out over there and still lose.
“My next world title challenge is likely to be my last and I desperately want to become a champion. I want to achieve my dream and I believe I can do it at this weight. It’s not like the light heavyweight division where there were two outstanding fighters in Adonis Stevenson (who defeated Bellew in 2013) and Sergey Kovalev.
“The champions at cruiserweight are good but I have the ability and the power to beat any of them.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing