What. A. Night.
Goodison Park was left rocking by one of their own on this Bank Holiday Sunday. The unbelievable atmosphere was only topped by the fairytale result. What was billed as the “Real Life Rocky Story” actually lived up to the hype. It was a case of third time lucky for Tony “The Bomber” Bellew as he emphatically stopped the much fancied Ilunga Makabu in the third round of his third world title challenge (his first at his self-declared natural weight of Cruiserweight). In what would have been billed as too far-fetched even for Hollywood, the star of Creed rose from the canvas in the first round, established himself in a cagey second then obliterated the dangerous southpaw in the following session.
Our thoughts on what makes a stadium fight, can be found in the latest edition of Peep Magazine, but this one surpassed our expectations. There was a tingle in the air all evening which continued to build and build until the main event. By the time his familiar Z-Cars theme belted out, the crowd was at fever pitch and played their part in an extraordinary comeback.
The sight of Bellew, and promoter Eddie Hearn, in tears at the end will live long in the memory and it would be a brave soul who bets against Bellew proving he is the best in the 200lb weight class. Current WBA and IBF titleholder Denis Lebedev was named by the scowser in the aftermath, as was David Haye. Either option would provide an intriguing first defence for different reasons.
In the immediate aftermath Bellew was as emotionally charged as ever and his reaction in the ring was fully understandable. Immense credit must also be given for his reaction to ensure Makabu was ok following the vicious stoppage. It must have taken another level of discipline to keep the celebrations in check and is part of what makes this sport as beautiful as it is brutal.
By the time he arrived at the post fight press conference, he appeared to have calmed down but the joy was evident as he continued to talk. Rather than the pre-fight hype and bravado however you could see a man who is determined to provide for his family. Referred to as “Ant” by his wife, and with son by his side, “The Bomber” talked at length about his desire and determination that he would not be defeated. In the world of modern boxing a lot of hype is fake and transparent yet this is truly a case of local man done (very, very) good.
Much like Bellew himself, the undercard for this event, was much maligned yet proved very enjoyable fare. Sean “Masher” Dodd was left in tears of joy as he defeated tough Italian Pasquale Di Silvio over 10 rounds to claim his first professional title (the WBC International trinket). Dodd rebounded well from his British title heartbreak to thoroughly outbox his game opponent. In particular, the Birkenhead man utilised his jab to control the action and got the nod 98-92, 98-92 and 97-93, much to the delight of his many supporters.
The three of the four Smith brothers signed to Matchroom all came through their respective contests without much trouble. Callum was surprisingly taken to the sixth round before securing the stoppage against tougher than expected Argentine Cesar Reynoso. “Mundo” did drop his man three times during the contest but his lively opponent tried his best to remain elusive and gave the WBC mandatory contender some much needed rounds.
It took Stephen “Swifty” Smith one round longer to secure the WBC Silver Super-Featherweight title yet his opponent was superior to his younger brother. Daniel Brizuela will forever be known on these shores for his classic with Tommy Coyle (and less so for losing to Luke Campbell) yet he looked solid in the lower weight class. Smith bounced back from an unsuccessful challenge for the IBF belt and looked composed throughout. Both men looked to land body with Smith in particular getting joy from this deliberate tactic. Brizuela was down in the seventh but got back to his feet to resume his challenge. It would be short lived however as Smith pounced and ended the contest with a left to the body.
Elder brother Paul took a points decision over Bartlomiej Grafka to secure his second victory within a month. The “Real Gone Kid” looked sharp in spots and the result was never in doubt. Elsewhere on the bill, popular heavyweight David Price (20-3) smashed his way to second round TKO of Vaclav Pejsar in his comeback bout. He will be tested again in the future but did what was expected under the stewardship of Dave Coldwell.
Tom Farrell (9-0) won an eliminator for the English Super-Lightweight title against Manchester’s Kofi Yates (13-2). Yates was aggressive throughout however Farrell boxed beautifully switching effortlessly between orthodox and southpaw. There were plenty of potentially close rounds but overall Farrell deserved the nod.
Steve Brogan (8-0), Scott Fitzgerald (3-0), Ged Carroll (2-0) and JJ Metcalf (12-0) all secured wins against Dean Evans, Gabor Balogh, Kristian Laight and Tom Knight respectively. Commonwealth gold medallist Fitzgerald appears to have adapted to the pro ranks seamlessly and has huge potential as a future champion. Metcalf too looked impressive with a first round stoppage of the previously unbeaten Knight.
British Light-Heavyweight champion, Hosea Burton, took out his frustration on Jozsef Kormany to move onto 17-0 with 8 coming inside the distance. Joe Gallagher trained Burton had been scheduled to defend his title against proud scowser Tony “The Warrior” Dodson, only for Dodson to suffer a devastating injury. Hopefully he can come back and they can get it on at a later date.
Liverpool Cruiserweight Craig Glover secured the dream debut with a first round TKO of Darren Snow. There must be something in the water on Merseyside!