Tony Bellew Must Learn To Cope With The Big Occasion After Eliminator Disappointment.

 
on April 02 2013 6:55 PM

For the second time in a matter of weeks, the city of Liverpool gathered again in the impressive Echo arena to witness one of their own move up into elite World company.

For the second time, they were disappointed.

This was supposed to be a statement night for Tony Bellew. The prize at the end of this fight would be a shot at the WBC Light-Heavyweight title. Standing in his way was Isaac Chilemba, a proud South African who was looking to come and spoil the party. Still, most experts had Bellew winning the fight comfortably by a late stoppage.

In-front of the expectant crowd of around 8000, Bellew walked towards the ring looking as intense as ever. There have been some criticism in the past that Bellew has psyched himself up too much for fights and is too focused on blasting his opponents away rather than use the scientific side of boxing to his advantage. During this training camp, his trainer has been working hard with 'The Bomber' on the fundamentals of Boxing. Footwork, evasive moves following combinations and counter attacking off the ropes. By all accounts, Bellew's camp couldn't have gone better and a big performance was expected.

The fight started off cagey, both fighters feeling each other out. Bellew's footwork was noticeably improved and his defenses were solid as he looked to penetrate the limited Chilemba. Bellew looked eager to impress the onlookers and after three rounds it looked like it was going to be a comfortable evening for the Liverpool native.

Things then became stale and Bellew looked to be going back to his old habits of looking for the one big punch, which is just what Chilemba was counting on. He began to work his way into the fight and while Bellew looked to be winning the majority of the rounds, they were a lot closer and Bellew was evidently getting more and more frustrated with each passing round.

The later rounds it was a different story. Bellew had run out of ideas of how to get what he and the crowd were craving. Chilemba's game plan was perfect and he was now catching Bellew as he was coming in more frequently. The mood had changed inside the arena, the knowledgeable Liverpool crowd sensing that the tide was turning in this fight and the nerves were evident throughout the ring. By the time the bell sounded at the end of the twelfth round, the crowd and Bellew himself felt he had done enough to win the fight, although it was a lot closer than everyone had expected coming into the fight.

When the result was announced, their was a collective gasp of disbelief throughout the building. The result was a draw, with the judges scoring it 115-114 in favour of Bellew, 114-114 and inexplicably 116-112 in favour of Chilemba. Bellew was outraged, but the WBC judges are notoriously controversial when it comes to scoring and at the end of the day Bellew should have left no doubt with his performance but he failed to do so. Chilemba was equally disappointed, he felt he had executed his gameplan perfectly and had dominated the later rounds.

Incidentally, I had Bellew winning the fight by 2 rounds but there were a lot of close rounds that could have gone either way. In particular during the mid-to-late rounds where Bellew's erratic style and concern with knocking out his opponent to please the crowd got the better of him on this occasion. If Bellew is to succeed on the elite level and gain a World title then he must avoid the temptation of getting into a toe-to-toe war with his opponents and concentrate more of what he is being taught during his camp. Bellew's technical skills have been criticised and they do appear limited, often relying on his exceptional power to get him through tough situations.

Bellew also appears to psyche himself up too much in the build up to his fights, no more so than this one. He looked edgy from the weigh-in onwards and he must have expended a lot of nervous energy unnecessarily in the hours before the fight. This intensity has made Bellew the fighter he is but it is now contributing to his downfall. He must find ways to control his aggression and intensity until he is ready to fully utilise it in the ring.

Bellew also has trouble adjusting tactics and strategy during fights. When his original gameplan fails him he struggles to adapt. A tricky customer like Chilemba studied this and made things as difficult as possible for Bellew. Then, when the opportunity was right he took advantage of this. Bellew doesn't hide his emotions well and when things are going well it is clear for all to see and this gives his opponent a boost in confidence. Another thing Bellew must work on if he is to take the next step.

This wasn't a total disaster by any means. Certainly not as catastrophic as what occurred in the very same arena a few weeks previously with David Price suffering a major setback in his quest for a Heavyweight Championship. Bellew didn't lose the fight and no doubt promoter Eddie Hearn will push for a rematch with Chilemba to determine who is the mandatory challenger for the WBC Light-Heavyweight title. Chilemba will be expecting a bigger payday this time around. If Hearn wants to stage the fight again in Liverpool he will have to pay for the privlige.

Bellew has work to do between now and then if he is to achieve his goals.

Both in and out of the ring.

Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_

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