Alan Dawson – London
Tony Bellew outpointed Roberto Bolonti on all three of the judges’ scorecards despite suffering a problematic cut in the third round of a light heavyweight tussle at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham on Saturday, November 17. The cut changed the complexion of the fight, from a gutsy encounter that could have finished early, to a cerebral hit-and-not-get-hit affair. Bellew’s promoter Eddie Hearn, of Matchroom Sports, will now push for a final WBC eliminator in March.
Official verdict: Bellew via unanimous decision.
“I felt like I could have got rid of him in the first three rounds,” said Bellew (19-1-0, 12ko), who picked up the WBC silver title at 175lbs with his victory. “He was tough, good chin. I just didn’t get the knockout.”
Pre-fight hostilities that involved Bolonti (30-2-0, 19ko) making throat-slashing gestures at the weigh-in on Friday were a mere appetiser for what ensued on the co-main event for the True Brit bill in the Midlands as both fighters landed with aplomb as early as the first round.
Bellew, who has boxed with a more risk averse method since suffering knockdowns at the fists of Ovill McKenzie in 2010, abandoned that strategy against his Argentine opponent as he fought on the front-foot and had his man on his knees, receiving a referee’s count, prior to the opening chapter’s conclusion. That decision was to Bolonti’s chagrin, who vehemently protested the count as he claimed the resultant punch was to the back of the head – a valid argument when watching the replay.
Bolonti was on his seat for the second time in the third round after getting caught with a hooking left early in the stanza. Even though he was losing rounds, the 33-year-old from Buenos Aires was no slouch in attack and was adept at landing his left, a shot that eventually slashed open Bellew’s brow and had claret waterfalling down the middle of his Chevy Chase.
Bellew, cheered on at ringside by Everton football stars Sylvain Distin and Tim Howard, did not his tactics in the fourth despite the cut. In the fifth, though, Bellew boxed Bolonti. The Bomber’s bleeding had ceased – largely thanks to the calm work of cutman Mick Williamson – and he bobbed and weaved away from Roberto’s swinging fists and fought with caution. Bellew had become more methodical in his approach and focused his attention to Bolonti’s midsection, particularly with his left mitt as he wisely kept his right at head-level in order to protect the gash.
Bellew picked his shots well in the sixth stanza and kept Bolonti at jabbing range. Boxing for the first time outside of Argentina, Bolonti did attempt to target the open trench on Bellew’s mush but his hooks and one-two combinations were largely thrown in vain as the popular Liverpudlian prizefighter’s athleticism and intuitive defensive movement ensured he was able to keep himself out of harm’s way.
In the ninth, Bellew backed Bolonti against the ropes but just when the attack could have proven troublesome for the visitor, he slipped out of the danger zone and back to the centre of the ring. The next round, Bolonti was hurt and on spaghetti legs following a body-bound combo and an uppercut. However, the South American’s recovery rate was sterling and he steadily walked to the red corner after hearing the bell.
Bellew popped a mustard one-two at the beginning of the 11th and there was not a moment that passed that wasn’t controlled by the Englishman. The fight’s finish was not climactic… considering the simmering heat during the weigh-in and the initial duelling this evening, the bout lost it’s fizzle sharpish, largely due to the cut suffered by Bellew.
Tony did well to adapt and shut out his opponent, but Bolonti and his corner would need to be asked why they didn’t force a stoppage on the cut. Even if he stuck his jab out and used his orthodox shots with more regularity he could have angered what was a large laceration, but, if anything, Bolonti boxed in a more timid fashion than he had in the first three rounds.
Credit for Bellew’s win must be placed with his corner, as well as himself. The change in tactics was on point but the work done by Willamson in calming the cut was nothing short of heroic.
“We’re in the pain business… we gotta go through it [but] I’ve got the best cutman in the game in Mick Williamson,” concluded Bellew.