Tony Bellew beats Ilunga Makabu at Goodison Park to win world title

By Ben DirsBBC Sport at Goodison Park
Tony Bellew
Everton fan Tony Bellew won the world title at the club's Goodison Park stadium

Liverpool's Tony Bellew won the vacant WBC cruiserweight title with a sensational third-round knockout of Ilunga Makabu at Goodison Park.

Bellew, challenging for a world title for a third time, was floored by a left hand in the opening round.

However, Bellew rocked Makabu with a left hook and right uppercut before rendering him unconscious with a barrage of blows.

He becomes the 13th current British world champion.

"He broke my nose with that left hand," Bellew told BBC Radio 5 live on Monday.

"I'm talking through my nose now and it's smashed to bits, but I have a green and gold belt. If you had to take my nose off my face for that belt I'd take it."

In winning the belt, Bellew made fantasy real life, having fought for a world title at the home of his beloved Everton FC in the latest Rocky film.

An estimated 15,000 fans gathered for the first ever boxing show at Goodison and the atmosphere was fevered by the time Bellew walked to the ring, to the strains of the Z-Cars theme tune, the traditional Everton anthem.

Bellew had the better of the opening exchanges but found himself on the canvas at the end of the first round, Makabu having soaked up a flurry of blows before springing from the ropes and landing with a peach of a left hand.

The home fighter, 33, probably nicked an uneventful second before the fight was blown open in the third.

The Congolese southpaw had won 19 of his 20 previous pro fights, 18 of them by knockout, and clearly believed he would prevail in a war.

But having thrown caution to the wind and abandoned his defences, Bellew softened Makabu up with a succession of juddering right hands.

And when Makabu was rocked by a left-right combination and retreated to the ropes, Bellew hunted him down and finished the job with a lethal left hook.

There was genuine concern as Makabu lay unconscious on the canvas but he was revived after about a minute and lifted onto his stool.

Britain's boxing champions
HeavyweightTyson Fury (WBA, WBO), Anthony Joshua (IBF)
CruiserweightTony Bellew (WBC)
Super middleweightJames DeGale (IBF)
MiddleweightBilly Joe Saunders (WBO)
Super welterweightLiam Smith (WBO)
WelterweightKell Brook (IBF)
Super lightweightRicky Burns (WBA)
LightweightAnthony Crolla (WBA), Terry Flanagan (WBO)
FeatherweightLee Selby (IBF)
BantamweightJamie McDonnell (WBA), Lee Haskins (IBF)

Bellew, who now has 27 wins (17 KOs) and two defeats from 30 pro fights, had lost his two previous world title challenges at light-heavyweight.

Afterwards, Bellew called out Russia's WBA and IBF champion Denis Lebedev and former cruiserweight world champion David Haye. Haye, however, now campaigns at heavyweight and is highly unlikely to drop back down.

Tony Bellew
Bellew now has 17 knockout wins to his name

'Nothing was going to stop me'

Bellew told Sky Sports: "I told you I am Everton. That's why I got up [after being knocked down in the first round]. Nothing was going to stop me tonight. I achieved the dream tonight, I am world champion, that's what I am.

"The last time I saw that [at Goodison Park] was in a Hollywood film. Michael Buffer was here tonight!

"It was a disaster of a training camp. Four weeks ago I had a detached rib, I had a messed up left hand.

"Two weeks ago I was in a hyperbaric chamber. But who cares?!"

Tony Bellew
Bellew said he now wants fight David Haye or Denis Lebedev at Goodison Park

On the undercard, European super-middleweight champion Callum Smith made it 20 wins from 20 pro fights with a sixth-round stoppage of game Argentine Cesar Reynoso.

Liverpool's Smith, who had Reynoso down three times, is the mandatory challenger for the WBC title. However, the 26-year-old might have to wait for a proposed world title unification match between James DeGale and Badou Jack before he gets his shot.

Sweden's Jack is the current WBC champion while Smith's compatriot DeGale owns the IBF belt.

Two more of the fighting Smith brothers were also in action. Former two-time super-middleweight world title challenger Paul beat Poland's Bartlomiej Grafka on points, while Stephen, who lost a challenge for the IBF super-featherweight title only last month, stopped Argentina's Daniel Brizuela in round seven.

Liverpool heavyweight David Price continued to rebuild his career with a second-round knockout of Vaclav Pejsar.

Former Olympic bronze medallist Price was knocked out twice by American Tony Thompson in 2013 and also by Germany's Erkan Teper last year. However, both Thompson and Teper subsequently failed drug tests.


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