Tony Bellew and Martin Murray score stoppages in Liverpool
LIVERPOOL, U.K. – British cruiserweight contender Tony Bellew labored his way to a 10th-round stoppage of late replacement Ivica Bacurin, dropping the visitor three times, and now has eyes on a world-title shot before the end of the year.
The non-title bout was scheduled for 10 and ended officially at 1:12 of the final frame.
Bellew (24-2-1, 15 knockouts) was originally scheduled to face a Czech puncher by the name of Lubos Suda, who pulled out earlier this week. Bacurin filled the void and although the 32-year-old Croatian planted his feet and unloaded on occasion, he was never really in the fight.
“I wasn’t 100 percent and everyone knows that,” said Bellew, who had been inactive for seven months. “I picked up injuries and illnesses in camp. I’m happy to get the win and I want a world title shot in this weight class. I trust Eddie (Hearn), who said he’ll deliver.”
After a cautious opener, Bacurin went down from what can only be described as half a left hook to the head. Sensing his opponent was looking for an easy escape, Bellew looked on derisively but there was still a long way to go.
Occasionally Bacurin appeared to be looking for a place to fall but a disinterested Bellew could not lower the boom. The second knockdown came on the end of a messy cluster of shots in the fifth, although the Croatian was sent sprawling from a powerful series of rights in the ninth.
Looking to save his performance, Bellew opened up in earnest in the final session and the referee jumped in when a brace of right uppercuts found the target.
Bellew has already had two world-title shots at light heavyweight. In 2011 he dropped a narrow decision to then-WBO titleholder Nathan Cleverly and, two years later, was wiped out in six by RING champion Adonis Stevenson. A move to cruiserweight followed and the Liverpool star’s best result, thus far, has been a revenge victory over Cleverly last November.
Hearn said, “It has to be a world-title shot next and we’ll be looking for the winner of Yoan Pablo Hernandez and Victor Emilio Ramirez for the IBF title.”
Three-time world-title challenger Martin Murray (30-2-1, 13 KOs) sharpened his tools with a second-round stoppage of George Beroshvili in a scheduled eight-round contest at super middleweight.
The popular British technician targeted the body early and there was a noticeable change in Beroshvili’s facial expression when he absorbed a solid left hook to the midsection in Round 1. The writing was on the wall and an identical shot floored the visitor for the count in the second.
Murray, rated No. 5 by THE RING at 160 pounds, has insisted that he could still make the middleweight limit but the temptation to face off with countrymen James DeGale and George Groves in lucrative super middleweight showdowns means that the move up will likely be permanent.
In February, the 32-year-old from St. Helens, England, managed to extend WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin into the 11th round. If he brings the same gusto to the super middleweight division then he will present a serious threat to any of the main players.
“Golovkin was the best middleweight on the planet and a huge puncher,” said Murray. “I’m ready for anyone now. This is my true weight division.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing