It’s not often that life imitates a Hollywood blockbuster, however this Sunday could well be a career defining night for the popular Tony ‘The Bomber’ Bellew. Although it is very poetic, it seems all too easy to draw comparisons between the scouser and the fictional character portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in the famous ‘Rocky’ series.
Having starred in the latest instalment of the franchise, ‘Creed’ as the loud and obnoxious ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan, Bellew has fought his way up the rankings and into Cruiserweight title contention. His last outing, in December, was a hard fought points win over the durable Mateusz Masternak for the European Cruiserweight title. On Sunday he will be aiming to fulfil a lifelong dream by becoming crowned the WBC Cruiserweight champion of the world.
Bellew will be hoping it is a case of third time lucky, having fallen short in his previous two World title tilts at Light Heavyweight. He was beaten by Nathan Cleverly in a close points decision in 2011, a defeat he has since avenged as part of his current 6-fight win streak in his more natural Cruiserweight division. The other was a knockout defeat back in 2013 to the WBC light heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson in Canada.
Standing in his way under the lights of his beloved Goodison Park, will be the dangerous and heavy-hitting Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu. The Congolese native will go into the fight a slight favourite. It’s hard to argue with the stats, a record of 19-1, 18 of those KO's, coupled with a ferocious 90% knockout rating. It looks like it could be a tough night for ‘The Bomber’.
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Going into the fight Bellew will be wary of the power that Makabu carries. He will look to take him into the later rounds of the fight, being mindful that his opponent has gone a full 12 rounds only once. If he can get Makabu into deep waters and out of his comfort zone, then the experience of previous world title shots for Bellew could come into play and give him an edge.
Bellew will have drawn confidence from fellow Brit, Anthony ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla in his recent successful Lightweight world title defence against the big-punching Venezuelan, Ismael Barroso. Here he proved that with a smart game-plan, utilising a stiff jab and covering up nullifying the big power shots early on, even the biggest hitters slow down and get careless the longer the fight goes on.
A very close fight to call and with the power displayed by both fighters one punch really could change everything. Bellew on points at 11/4 could be a shrewd move provided he can successfully navigate some potentially tricky early rounds.
Although a Hollywood ending would be fitting for Bellew, it may be a bridge too far for him and he may be destined for more World title heartache. If like the Stevenson fight Bellew gets caught and finds himself in trouble then Makabu to win by stoppage between rounds 1-6 can be found at 4/1.