COMMONWEALTH belt holder praises event as 'great for the sport'
Commonwealth champion Tony Bellew will be ringside at Prizefighter Light-Heavyweights II on January 29 at Olympia in London, and said he was open to a fight with the winner.
Bellew has a date with a previous Prizefighter champion on February 19 first as he takes on Cruiserweights winner Ovill McKenzie in a rematch of their fantastic fight in December. The Liverpudlian came out on top against McKenzie on home turf, recovering from being floored in both the first and second rounds before stopping the Derby man in the eight.
Eight of the most exciting Light-Heavyweights in England will enter the 16th edition of Matchroom Sport's eight-man, one-night tournaments live on Sky Sports and broadcast in 3D for the first time – and Bellew is full of praise for the impact the event has had on the sport and will be a keen observer on January 29, as he watches a potential foe lift the trophy and claim the £32,000 winner's cheque.
"McKenzie has only got a shot at me because he won Prizefighter so it proves that it is a respected tournament and a great platform for fighters to move up, so you can't rule out a fight with the winner," said Bellew. "Prizefighter is great for the sport – it's got people back into it. When you go into the pub on a Saturday night now it's not Spanish football on or something like that, it's boxing because everybody wants to watch Prizefighter as it's so exciting. As for fighting the winner – I've done it before with McKenzie and if it gets proposed to me, I've got no problem doing it again."
While Bellew will be as impartial as possible at the Kensington venue, he can be forgiven for getting behind fellow Scouser and long time friend Tony Dodson. The pair have been close since Bellew was an amateur, and while Dodson said it "would be weird" to fight his friend, Bellew made it clear that any future fight would be strictly business.
"Tony and I go way back – I think the world of him," said Bellew. "He's a great guy, we've been mates a good number of years and he's a great fighter. Tony knows it is a business just like I do, and if the right money is on the table then something has to be done. I've got a family to support so if the money is good I will fight anyone – I'd fight my own Mother is the money was right!"
Bellew was quick to acknowledge that a victory for Dodson – or any of the fighters on the night – would catapult them into the firing line at the top of the division. But he was also keen to point out the importance of Prizefighter to the sport – singling out Cruiserweights II runner-up Nick Okoth as a worthy beneficiary of the tournament's significant financial rewards.
"Tony needs to make his name at this weight and needs credibility – winning Prizefighter could get him there," said Bellew. "He has the experience of big nights over all the guys in there so that's definitely in his favour - he's got the right make-up to win it. Llewellyn Davies is a good boxer and I think Travis Dickinson will be the hungriest in there, without doubt. But with the prize money at £32,000 all the guys are going to going for it, someone like Michael Banbula is going to be earning six times more than he's ever earned in his life so this could bring the best out of someone like that.
"It's a great reward for some of the journeymen, like when Nick Okoth was in there, he picked up about £18,000 and I thought that was fantastic because of what Nick has put into the sport," said Bellew – who made Okoth his tenth victory as a pro in September 2009. "Nick deserves what he got out of that night and it's great for guys like that and for young fighters to get their name out-and-about."
The fighters name-checked by Bellew – Dodson, Davies, Dickinson and Banbula – are joined by St Albans' fighter Joe Smyth, unbeaten 26 year-old Kent fighter Menay Edwards, popular Romford man Billy Slate and Blackfriars boxer Jack Morris.
Tickets for the Prizefighter Light-Heavyweights II are on sale now, with tickets starting at £20 (sold out) and £30, ringside tickets at £40 (sold out) and £50, and VIP packages at £120 – tickets are on sale at SeeTickets.com or through Matchroom Sport on 01277 359900.
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