Tony Bellew has been voted runner up for this year’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. In reality TV, second best is to be celebrated. In the boxing ring, it can be a bitter pill to swallow.
In a 34-bout career, ‘Bomber’ Bellew had just three losses. The first came by close majority decision against Nathan Cleverly for the WBO Light-Heavyweight World Title.
The third defeat was to be the Liverpool native’s final fight. Oleksandr Usyk kept his undisputed cruiserweight title by dispatching of Bellew in the eighth round. The Ukrainian would go on to win the unified heavyweight belts and is one fight away from becoming sole champion in a second division.
It’s the loss in between those that Bellew attributed to changing everything.
His second crack at world honours in the 175 division was against Adonis Stevensons in Quebec. Hard-hitting southpaw Stevenson also entered the ring at that time with just one loss, and put his WBC belt on the line.
Bellew was forced to fight off the back foot in the early rounds, scoring some success with his right hand but taking punishment whilst doing so. It was in the sixth that Stevenson unleashed a short left hand that floored the Brit.
He made the count but two more spiteful shots saw him completely out on his feet. The referee stopped it.
Speaking to The Ring Magazine, Bellew said the loss was a wake up call to reassess his camp and, ultimately, move up to cruiserweight.
“The Adonis Stevenson fight was a massive wake up call. My previous world title attempt, I didn’t really count the first one [vs. Nathan Cleverly] as a loss because I didn’t think I lost, I just had to crack on. It was just one of those fights where you don’t get the decision. The other one, against Stevenson, was a massive part of my career, a massive part of my life and it made me change everything and go back to the drawing board.
I was dead at light heavyweight but I thought I could make it one last time. My plan was I’ll catch Stevenson before he catches me, I thought I’d knock him out and the plan was to move up immediately and fight Bernard Hopkins at a catchweight between light-heavyweight and cruiserweight. I was always trying to plan ahead but I fell short and it didn’t happen.”
The loss was a hard one to take. Bellew attempted to explain the pain of a dream escaping you.
“Up against Stevenson, my world got crushed. It was the first time I’d ever been stopped in my life. It was heartbreaking. I went back to my room and cried myself to sleep because I thought I’d just wasted 10-15 years of my life chasing this dream and you tell yourself, ‘I’m not good enough to be a world champion. I’ve put all my eggs in one basket, here. I’ve got no qualifications. I’ve finished school’. I’m not going to tell you the thoughts that were going through my head when I came home.”
His decision to fight on was properly rewarded three years later when he stopped Ilunga Makabu in the third round to become the WBC Cruiserweight World Champion.
Bellew made one successful defence before vacating the belt and moving up to heavyweight to defeat bitter domestic rival David Haye twice over. Those money fights set him up well before he bowed out after the Usyk loss.