Learning on the job
Tony Bellew is getting his boxing education in the public eye but is confident he will deliver the goods against Isaac Chilemba and earn another world title shot.
By Adam Norman: Twitter @SkySportsNorm. Last Updated: 20/05/13 3:38pm
Tony Bellew is certain he will get the result he wants when he takes on Isaac Chilemba for a second time on May 25.
The Evertonian headlined an Echo Arena show at the end of March in a WBC final eliminator against the Malawian but the fight proved a damp squib and between them the judges were unable to split the pair.
It gave the critics another opportunity to draw the knives on the likeable light-heavyweight, who has not impressed everybody since joining promoter Eddie Hearn and targeting a second world title shot.
But after taking a giant leap from domestic to world level in just his 17th professional outing against Nathan Cleverly, Bellew has had to do his learning in full view.
"I've got to understand that at the top level these guys are not interested in how they win, they'll spoil you and not look good but they just look for the win."
Tony Bellew Quotes of the week
He was able to back up his brash talk ahead of that WBO title clash, pushing his domestic rival all the way to a narrow points loss - his first as a pro. However, the rebuilding proces was never going to be easy.
But, skilfully guided by Hearn, Bellew has been manoeuvred into position to challenge for Chad Dawson's WBC title...only Chilemba stands in the way.
And yet their first fight only went so far as proving that Bellew may not yet be ready for Dawson. However Bellew knows he has that point to prove.
"I was ready to put everything on the line as everyone could see, but if the other guy doesn't want to do that back, just runs and makes you miss it's very frustrating and I was shocked at that," he said of the first Chilemba fight.
"I've got to understand that at the top level these guys are not interested in how they win, they'll spoil you and not look good but they just look for the win.
"I've got to understand I can't be in great fights all the time. It takes two to make a fight and I'm past saying it's going to be a great fight because the truth of the matter is I don't really know how much these guys want to fight.
"At the same I know what I'm going in with. I'm not going in with a box of tricks, I know what he's going to do and I know what to expect so I'm prepared and I'm not going in blindfolded. I know what I have to do, it might not be an exciting fight. I'm not claiming it's going to be great, but I'm going to win clearly and decisively and I can say that for definite."
That said, Bellew is surely hoping he can put on a show for the fans at the O2 and extinguish the memory of a forgettable night in Liverpool.
"It's very frustrating when you're in there. I had a gameplan because I'd studied him but the person I got in the ring with wasn't the same guy," he added. "It's happened to me on a couple of occasions, he didn't want to come near me and I don't think he comprehended how big a fight it was, one fight away from a world title fight.
"If he can grasp what's at stake then surely he can put it all on the line. I was expecting the hardest fight of my life and when he didn't want to know I was as shocked as anybody. I really did expect a tough fight. I've got to move on and think about what I'm going to do in the future.
"I know deep down I'm a better fighter than Isaac Chilemba. He knows it too and you can't lie to yourself. He knows if I apply the right tactics there's nothing he can do. I've just got to get it right on the night and I know what I've got to do this time.
"It was a fight of two halves and it was basically down to me. I was dominating the first part of the fight and I just fell off and couldn't find the momentum again. I know why that happened and what went wrong and I'm going about it the right way to solve the problem.
"If I go in there and do what I can do there's nothing he can do to combat that. Deep down he knows that and I know that - if I'd have carried on doing what I was doing we wouldn't be talking about it now. I have to live with that and I have to suffer the consequences of that as a result. I'm itching to get back on the 25th."
Bellew will be able to call on the experience of going in twice with Ovill McKenzie immediately prior to his fight with Cleverly - 'Bomber' down twice in their first encounter before stopping his opponent in the eighth round.
A re-match was called for and that time Bellew produced a near shut-out win - proving he is a fast learner.
"There's things I can draw on from the McKenzie rematch," said Bellew, now 19-1-1. "I very rarely repeat the same mistakes twice. There are not many attributes I can give myself and do things great but I learn from mistakes and I certainly learned from the first fight.
"You've got to remember I'm on the verge of fighting for my second world title in only my 22nd fight. Some guys are competing for the English title after 20 fights and here's me fighting for my second world title. It's been a steep learning curve - I was in four round fights and then I was in a Commonwealth title fight, all of a sudden I was fighting for a British title and then a world title.
"There were no international, European or inter-continental fights, it was one level then five steps up to the next. I've got to get that experience and it's tough to do but I'm not complaining about it because I'm doing it. Sometimes I've been found wanting and I let my emotions get the better of me, and I have to keep that under control now.
"I try and just take each fight as it comes. Maybe people see what I've done to a former European champion in Danny McIntosh (fifth round stoppage), and what I've done to a world champion in Nathan Cleverly, dominated Edison Miranda and it gains momentum as you keep beating them and people expect me to be in hard fights.
"People thought Cleverly would wipe the floor with me and that didn't happen. When you get to a certain level that's the way it is but I'm on a steep learning curve and I am going to have critics. Some aren't going to like it and you can't please everybody, one of my problems is I'm trying to but the fact is I can't, I've got to accept that and it's been a very steep learning curve.
"I've been very active and it is what it is, I'm trying to do the best I can and learn while I'm doing it. You can't beat experience and I'm going in with these guys, some of the most avoided around, Ovill McKenzie not once but twice, Bob Ajisafe is another one. People don't want to go in with these guys and there's me who will."
Bellew is far from the self-publicist that he always felt he had to be to get the public's attention, but is still driven by the critics and the naysayers who are looking for him to take a fall.
"I don't feel like I do get the credit sometimes but that just drives me on even more," he said. "I'm a very determined person, I'm always trying to do my best and that's all I can do.
"This is a massive bill going world wide and it's not about me, it goes far beyond anything I've done in boxing and it's just an honour to be on it. But at the same Chilemba's in for a nasty shock."