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Tony Bellew wants “Mega-star” for next fight

Image: Tony Bellew wants “Mega-star” for next fight

By Allan Fox: Tony Bellew did what few expected him to do in stopping David Haye in five rounds tonight in their rematch at the O2 Arena in London, England on Saturday. Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) says he now wants a “Mega-star” to fight when he returns to the ring again.

Bellew, 34, has gotten all he can out of his nemesis Haye, and that’s not a fight that can be peddled to the British boxing public on Sky Box Office PPV. The fans won’t buy that one again. So now Bellew must find someone new that the fans will pay to see in high numbers.

Just from the top of his head, Bellew named these three fighters that he’d be interested in fighting: Andre Ward, Murat Gassiev and Oleksandr Usyk. The problem is none of them are mega-stars. Ward’s last fight against Sergey Kovalev brought in poor PPV totals in their June 2017 rematch on HBO in Las Vegas.

Perhaps the UK fans are more enamored with Ward than the American fans. That would be the only way Bellew would be able to make a bundle fighting Ward, because the fight wouldn’t sell in the U.S. Would the British fans want to see Bellew fight Ward? The could be a wrestling match given Ward’s style of fighting, and it might not mean much to the average British fan.

“I need a world title or a big, huge name. He [Whyte] did well against Lucas Browne but I need a mega star,” Bellew said to Sky Sports. “I’m a walking Super Series – every fight I’m in is the Super Series! Usyk, Gassiev, Andre Ward? You name them, I keep beating them. Just give me someone.”

A bigger fight for Bellew than Ward would be Adonis Stevenson, as he beat Bellew five years ago.

Bellew says he keeps beating them, but he hasn’t beaten any big names that are in their prime. Haye was clearly a faded and well past his prime fighter. Bellew has yet to beat his first big star that was in his prime. Bellew’s best wins over his career were against an old Haye, Nathan Cleverly, BJ Flores and Illunga Makabu. None of those are big mega-stars.

If Bellew’s promoter Eddie Hearn throws a lot of money at Ward, Gassiev or Usyk, he might be able to get one of them to agree to a fight against him. Those are not mega-stars thought. Usyk and Gassiev are good fighters, but they’ve not reached stardom. Ward isn’t a star in his home country of the U.S. His fighting style, which involved a lot of holding and wrestling, never won over the casual boxing fans, who prefer the more aggressive styles of punchers like Gennady Golovkin and Saul Canelo Alvarez.

WBC, WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksander Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) is currently injured, and his fight with IBF/WBA cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev still needs to be scheduled for some time in the summer. If Bellew is fine with sitting and waiting for two or three months on the outcome of the Usyk-Gassiev fight, he could maybe fight the winner of that match in late 2018. The question is how marketable is a fight between Bellew and Gassiev or Usyk in the UK? Those are fighters that are only known by the hardcore boxing fans in the UK. Bellew might not be able to sell a fight between him and one of those guys.

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Bellew’s best shot at a big money fight would be for him to take on Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder. Bellew is good friends with Joshua, so he’s not going to fight him. Wilder’s management is working on a deal for a unification fight against Joshua. Wilder could be fighting Dominic Breazeale before that this summer. Tyson Fury would be a great option if Bellew’s promoter Eddie Hearn can convince the former unified heavyweight champion to take the fight without making Bellew wait 4 or 5 fights for him to get his tune-ups out of his system.

Bellew is not interested in fighting highly rated #1 WBC heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte, given that it’s not a big enough fight for him. Bellew could be wrong. Outside of Joshua and Tyson Fury, Whyte is probably the third biggest name in the UK at heavyweight when it comes to fighters that are still in their prime. Joe Joyce and Hughie Fury are not big enough names for Bellew to fight if he’s just trying to make as much money as possible.

“Me and Dillian [Whyte] have had words over the years,” Bellew said. “Dillian is a good fighter. It’s a hard fight. But it’s for nothing.”

If Bellew doesn’t want to fight Whyte, then he could always move back down to cruiserweight and fight Mairis Briedis. That’s the guy that Bellew twice swerved while holding the WBC belt, causing him to be stripped of his title for avoiding. Briedis is a big step up from Haye, as he’s not a shot fighter, and he doesn’t stupid things inside the ring like throwing left hooks that leave himself wide open. Haye’s habit of throwing wide left hooks cost him the fight tonight against Bellew. Briedis isn’t a sloppy fighter like Haye, and he doesn’t have injury problems.

If Bellew is to beat Briedis, he’s going to need to do a lot more than throw left hooks. Briedis will neutralize Bellew’s left hooks and bounce shots off his head all night. Bellew sidestepped Briedis not once but twice in fighting bottom feeder BJ Flores and the past his prime Haye. The excuse given by Hearn for Bellew swerving Briedis the first time was he wasn’t as well known as the 37-year-old Flores.

It seemed like a weak excuse because Flores was not a household name in the UK with the casual boxing fans. He was known to the hardcore fans only, and he wasn’t someone that was highly rated. Flores was ranked near the bottom of the WBC’s rankings while Briedis was rated at No.1. Bellew still sidestepped Briedis to take Flores, and then he sidestepped him a second time to fight Haye. Finally, the WBC stripped Bellew of his WBC cruiserweight title, because they wanted him to defend against Briedis, who beat Marco Huck to try and force the fight against Bellew.

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