By Ian S Palmer
WBC Cruiserweight Champion Tony Bellew of Liverpool, England will be defending his title against American veteran BJ Flores at the Echo Arena in Bellew’s hometown this Saturday, October 15th. Bellew won the vacant crown with a third-round stoppage over Ilunga Makabu of the Congo in Liverpool on May 29th. Bellew had previously lost a pair of title shots in the light heavyweight division as he was stopped by WBC Champion Adonis Stevenson in six rounds in 2013 and Nathan Cleverly beat him by majority decision for the WBO crown in 2011. Flores last fought in May and beat Roberto Santos by a six-round unanimous decision. The 12-bout can be seen live in the UK on Sky Sports.
The 33-year-old Bellew is a former European and British champion who enters the ring with a record of 27-2-1 with 17 Kos. Bellew moved up to the cruiserweight division after Stevenson stopped him in November of 2013, but he hasn’t really taken on any Grade A boxers in his new division. He’s beaten the likes of Makabu, Mateusz Masternak, Arturs Kulikauskis, Valery Brudov, Ivica Bacurin and Julio Cesar Dos Santos. The draw on his record came back in 2013 against Isaac Chilemba in the light heavyweight division. Bellew has beaten some good boxers in his career as he won decisions in rematches against Chilemba and Cleverly and also beat Edison Miranda by a ninth-round TKO in 2012.
Bellew turned pro in 2007 and has 197 rounds under his belt. He’s not an overly-powerful puncher and his current knockout ratio is 57 per cent. He stands 6-feet-3-inches tall and has a 74-inch reach. Bellew has good technical skills and likes to press the action. He’ll also have the hometown crowd behind him once again this weekend, but his chin is somewhat questionable after Stevenson stopped him a few years ago.
The 37-year-old Flores of San Francisco, California has an impressive 32-2-1 mark with 20 Kos. He’s got about the same power as Bellew and has the same current knockout ratio of 57 percent. He’s slightly shorter than the champion at 6-feet-2-inches tall. However, when it comes to reach, Flores has a decided advantage at 80 inches to Bellew’s 74. Flores has 160 rounds of pro experience since turning pro in 2003. He took an 18-month break from the ring before returning in 2014 and has won eight of his last nine bouts with five of them coming inside the distance.
Flores has faced the likes of Hugo Pineda, Darnell Wilson and Andy Sample with his two losses coming by 12-round unanimous decision to Australian Danny Green in Australia back in 2010 and by 12-round unanimous decision too Beibut Shumenov in July of last year. His draw was a four-round affair against Semisi Bloomfield back in 2003. Flores’ reach advantage could prove to be a big factor here, as he should be able to catch Bellew moving in. If both boxers show up with their A game, this could be an entertaining affair.
Bellew has youth and the home fans on his side as well as confidence after winning the title. Flores is a solid boxer though and should have his moments. When all is said and done, Bellew should retain his title by a relatively comfortable decision with a late stoppage being a less-likely scenario.