Steve Bunce on Boxing: Warriors traded insults and then traded blows

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Tony Bellew is an old-school fighter and could only come from Liverpool. He sold his memorable WBO light-heavyweight title fight against Nathan Cleverly on Saturday night by turning the conferences and weigh-in into the type of events that British boxing has not experienced since the glory days of Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank. The pair spent six months swapping insults, dismissing the police when called to confrontations and trying several times to fight for nothing on the street. Thankfully, at 10.45pm on Saturday they started for real; it was worth the wait. After 12 ferocious rounds Cleverly won a tight decision.

Liverpool, like Bellew, is an old-school fight city and they know their boxing. They knew their man had fought out of his skin and there was no controversy in the decision and no trouble as people walked away. "We only like good fights – this was a good fight and people in Liverpool know what they are watching," said John Hyland, former Olympian, British champion and promoter. When it was over Bellew sat next to Cleverly weeping. "I've let my boys down," he sobbed as Cleverly put his arm across his shoulders. Bellew made no excuses. "I've watched it three times and I think it was 6-6," Bellew told me. He never mentioned his broken right hand, which went in about round five. He never said a word because David Haye's toe excuse is still raw.

A slice of Kimbo is always fun

American heavyweight hopes are rare at the moment. Don King has been looking for a decade. Step forward, Kimbo Slice. This guy is unbelievable to look at. On Saturday in Nebraska he knocked out his second professional opponent; both of his fights have ended inside the first round and both opponents have been left cold.

Slice, 37, made his reputation in bare-knuckle fights in Florida boatyards. He crushed men like Chico the Knife in seconds, collected thousands of dollars in bets and went back to his other life as a loving husband and devoted dad.

'Bomber' still packs a punch

Herol Bomber Graham was avoided, by the best fighters of his generation for a decade. Marvin Hagler, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins and Chris Eubank would not fight him. They told him so. He came close twice to winning a world title but a controversial decision and a sickening punch ruined his nights. He kept fighting, finally walking away in 1998 after 20 years and 54 fights. He held domestic middleweight titles when Benn and Eubank were making millions.

Last week his book came out. Bomber: Behind the Laughter. Stuart Wilkin helped him put it together and it is, like Herol, packed with honesty and humour. He had an usual amount of bad luck and remains the undisputed best modern British fighter never to win a world title. Sadly, that's not a belt any fighter wants. He wrote the book because he was depressed. "I knew the memories would lift me. They did."

Last week he was all laughter. Here's Herol having a reflective moment: "They said I was a runner not a fighter but I'd battered 19 out of 20 so fucking hard that they couldn't stand up. I'd nearly killed one poor bloke. These people seemed to think boxing was just about seeing who could get smashed in the head the most and still carry on. What's the point in that?" Thanks for that, Herol.