Tony Bellew is likely to be out until March after he sustained a horrendous gash to his right eye en route to unanimously outpointing Argentina’s Roberto Bolonti to lift the vacant WBC silver light-heavyweight (stepping stone) crown at Nottingham Arena last night.
’Bomber’ Bellew (12st 6 10oz) has exercised a degree of caution in recent victories against Ovill McKenzie (in their rematch) and Edison Miranda, but the Evertonian came out swinging early on here against Bolonti (12st 5lbs) who obliged him in a lively opener. It was Bellew however who made the breakthrough after a chopping right to the temple sent Bolonti to the mat with a minute remaining in round one. The Argentinean seemed more caught off balance than genuinely hurt, but having tasted Bellew’s power this set the tone for the rest of the fight in which the Briton largely did as he pleased.
Tony’s attempts to finish matters at the end of the first, and throughout the majority of round two, saw him miss wildly with right hands and hooks as Bolonti weathered the storm. An early finish did seem on the cards though when the visitor suffered a second knockdown at the start of round three after a glancing left hook to the temple took his legs away as he prepared to land with a right hand of his own. Once more Bolonti rose quickly but Bellew steamed in to end matters but suddenly the fight took an unexpected twist
A left hook from Bolonti, which he threw as he was pinned in a neutral corner, forced Bellew to take half a step back. Momentarily it appeared that Tony may have been stunned before he started dabbing his glove to his right eye which revealed a shocking gash with blood flowing freely. Fortunately, for Bellew, he could count out on legendary cutsman Mick ‘The Rub’ Williamson in his corner to try and keep the cut under control as referee Victor Loughlin maintained a close look. The early knockdowns Bellew scored also ensured that Bolonti wasn’t about to throw caution to the wind which resulted in a predictable spectacle for the remainder of the fight.
Bolonti’s 30-1 slate suggested he could fight, as did the WBC’s rather generous no.5 ranking for him. The reality is that the Argentinean has mixed in desperately poor company and he lacked the resolve or the ambition to try and capitalise on Bellew’s terrible injury. Tony, as was to be expected, boxed carefully on the back foot for the remainder to protect his cut from worsening. Thanks largely to a disciplined defensive display from Bellew, and combined with Bolonti’s negativity, it never did.
The fireworks from the early exchanges evaporated as Bellew got behind his jab to show, once more, that the gun-ho Scouser can box as well as fight when he needs to. He employed a nice double jab to rack up the points in round six and similarly doubled up his left hook to head and body in the eighth. Just when the fighters appeared to be heading tediously towards the finishing line a low blow from Bellew forced Bolonti to take some time out to recover mid way through the ninth. The transgression actually served to wake Bellew up as he launched his best attack since round three by backing Bolonti up with a burst of right hands.
The tenth was also an uncomfortable one for the visitor after he was shaken by an uppercut as Bellew continued to box with authority as he was no longer preoccupied with protecting his eye. In the end though Tony had to settle for a points win which was a formality from the judges, 120-106 twice and 119-107.
Bellew’s 19th victory of his 20-fight career inches him closer to a second world title shot but in truth the outclassed Boronti was no barometer for judging his ability to mix it with the light-heavyweight division’s elite. Bellew’s injury, which could have been made so much worse had Boronti, gone for it, is likely to keep him out until March.
A one-sided undercard saw some of Matchroom’s stellar prospects catch the eye. Bantamweight Khalid Yafai required less than a minute of the opening round to despatch outgunned Italian Pio Antonio Nuttuno in a scheduled eight-three’s. A double left hook, first to the head and then to the body, sent Nuttuno to the canvas where he was unable to beat referee Terry O’Connor’s ten count. Birmingham’s Yafai, now 5-0 (4), looks an exciting prospect. Middleweight Callum Smith, the youngest fighting brother of the Smith clan (Paul, Stephen and Liam) opened his professional account with a 40-36 points win against tough-as-nails teen Dan Blackwell. Smith, who claimed a sliver medal at the Commonwealth Games, was met with stubborn resistance at times from Blackwell but worked well both at range and in close and winded his opponent to the body in the first round.
Light-welterweight Scott Cardle tried too hard to halt Nicaragua’s Miguel Aguilar and had to settle for a decisive 80-70 points victory in first eight-rounder to improve to 8-0 (2). Aguilar suffered two points deductions for holding in round four and in round eight for use of the elbow. The Nicaraguan’s ungainly tactics also opened up a cut by Cardle’s left eye in the fourth following a clash of heads.