By Scott Gilfoid
Tony Bellew isn’t messing around about his interest in fighting retired light heavyweight Andre Ward. Bellew says he wants to fight Ward, and he thinks he can beat without a doubt. Bellew also says he believes he’s still the best fighter in the cruiserweight division, even though he never proved it in the past.
Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) hasn’t fought in almost a year since beating Sergey Kovalev by an 8th round knockout in June 2017 in a fight that ended in controversy. Ward appeared to hit Kovalev with 3 consecutive low blows.
“It’s very serious, he wants it and I want it,” Bellew said to skysports.com. “I’d love the fight. I just know I can beat Andre Ward, there is no doubt in my mind. I still believe I am the best cruiserweight in the world. I left the division the best fighter in there”
Ignoring the business about Ward, Bellew NEVER proved that he’s the best fighter in the cruiserweight division before moving up to heavyweight to fight David Haye twice. Bellew, 34, won the vacant WBC cruiserweight title beating Illunga Makabu by a 3rd round knockout in May 2016, and then successfully defended it once against BJ Flores in October 2016. Bellew never fought the talented cruiserweights in Mairis Bredis, Olekandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev.
If Bellew repeats himself long about his belief that he was and still is the best cruiserweight in the division, then I think some boxing fans will believe him. I don’t think he is the best or even the 6th best cruiserweight in the division. I rate Bellew behind these fighters: 1. Oleksandr Usyk 2. Murat Gassiev 3. Yunier Dorticos 4. Mairis Briedis 5. Kryztof Glowacki. I see Bellew as the 6th best cruiserweight in the division, and I think he’s shaky at that spot because Denis Lebedev might beat him, as well as Mike Perez and Maxim Vlasov. Those are very solid fighters, and they’re not injured and they vulnerable to left hooks like David Haye.
“I believe I can beat him two ways, I can outbox him or chin him,” Bellew said. ”Although he is a master on the inside, an old general, I think I can prove to people that I’m better there.”
It’s possible that Bellew could beat Ward if he can handle his body shots and his inside game. That might be the key. Bellew would certainly be getting Ward at the right time with him coming off of a 1-year layoff. If Bellew can’t handle fighting him on the inside game of Ward, then he’ll end up just like Sergey Kovalev did in getting worn down and either stopped or beaten by a decision. Ward looked vulnerable in both of his fights with Kovalev.
The most important thing that will determine whether the Ward-Bellew fight can happen is whether there will be enough money to satisfy both of them. As good as Ward is, he’s not as popular as Haye in the UK, so Bellew might not be able to make the same amount of money as he did in his last two fights. Will the British boxing fans pay to see Bellew and Ward fight each other? Is the fight worth it? It’s never a good idea to pick out guys that have been retired for a year unless they’re super popular like Floyd Mayweather Jr. Ward isn’t that kind of a fighter.
Bellew might be better off fighting the winner of the Usyk vs. Gassiev fight. At least by fighting the winner of that fight, Bellew will be able to generate a lot of interest from the UK boxing fans because he’ll be competing against the best cruiserweight in the division. Ward is not the best light heavyweight. The best fighter at 175 is yet to be determined, but it’s one of these fighters: Dmitry Bivol, Artur Beterbiev or Adonis Stevenson. Bellew should pick one of those guys if his focus is to select a fighter from the 175lb weight division.