Alex Reid fancies the Tony Bellew-Isaac Chilemba fight to go late and possibly the distance on Saturday night...
"A recent showing on Sky's Ringside offered hope, showing that Bellew has been putting in the hard graft in the gym. Making 175lb has been a struggle for him in the past, but judging by his gruelling preparations, that shouldn't be a problem."
With some fighters, you know exactly what you're going to get. Whether it's Wladimir Klitschko coming out cautiously behind a long jab, Bernard Hopkins beginning slow then coming on strong, or Zab Judah starting off fast before falling apart like a clown's car, many boxers have styles or patterns you can set your watch by.
That does not apply to Tony Bellew. The scouse light-heavyweight is wonderfully, maddeningly erratic. Both throughout his career and sometimes in the same fight. This is a fighter who was on the verge of being knocked out by the tough but limited Ovill McKenzie, then less than a year later was giving unbeaten WBO Nathan Cleverly all he could handle in a 12 round war (the debatable majority decision loss is Bellew's only defeat in 20 pro bouts).
Since then, he looked well out of sorts against Edison Miranda before turning up the power late in the fight to stop the shopworn Colombian banger. In his very next fight, he knocked down Argentina's Roberto Bolonti twice in the first three rounds, before settling in for a wide points victory (admittedly, Bellew was bothered by an early cut).
At his best, the 30-year-old Bellew has shown thudding power, a solid chin and the classy jab you'd expect from a triple ABA champion. At his worst, he's looked listless, chinny and short of elite class. So much for the form guide. In this crunch battle against the also once-beaten Malawian Isaac Chilemba (20-1-1 with nine stoppages), it's difficult to know which Bellew will show - Jekyll or Hyde. He could come in doing his best impression of a prime Bob Foster or moving slowly around the ring like a modern-day Bob Arum.
A recent showing on Sky's Ringside offered hope, showing that Bellew has been putting in the hard graft in the gym. Making 175lb has been a struggle for him in the past, but judging by his gruelling preparations, that shouldn't be a problem. What might be more tricky to counter is the 25-year-old Chilemba who looks a well-schooled, well-rounded boxer. Like Bellew, he has a good jab and has shown the guts to comeback and win from two hard knockdowns (against Maxim Vlasov in 2011). He doesn't have Bellew's punch power, but might fancy he has the stamina to maintain a faster work rate against Bellew.
Overall, this looks an incredibly even, intriguing, pick 'em fight and on such occasions, the smallest margins offer an advantage. I can see the fight going the distance - though a knockdown or two on the way wouldn't be a surprise - with perhaps the raucous home support just pulling Bellew over the line (or at least convincing the ever-impartial judges he's done enough).
One additional note: as tasty as the main event is, it's thunder could well be stolen by a cracking undercard fight. Derry Mathews vs. Anthony Crolla is a rematch to the 2012 British fight of the year, won by Matthews via six-round KO in a minor upset. Both boxers are flawed and have lost since, but will know this is make-or-break in terms of their career trajectory. Except it to be explosive again, and Anthony Crolla to have his revenge. He is generally around [1.63] to do so.
This will be a dramatic affair, and I think Bellew has what it takes to win, but it'll probably go late. Back The Bomber to win on points @ [2.3] (then watch from behind the sofa).