On Tony Bellew In The Jungle
How does training for Dancing on Ice compare to training for a world title?
It’s actually very, very similar. Basically, you’re going to end up on your arse whatever happens (laughs). I’m in a really good place in my life. My troubles after my career have been well documented. I had so many great moments in the ring and so many bad, bad times afterwards.
Everything now is moving forwards. I’ve been in good shape for a few years now. I think it was over ten years ago when I fought Senchenko in my comeback fight. I knew when I lost that, that boxing was over for me. That fight gave me the opportunity to move on with my life. That’s what I did.
I did my exhibition last year against Marco Antonio Barrera, got in good shape for someone who is forty-four-years-old. Then I did my documentary and got some great feedback from that. People knew I had some struggles, but I don’t think they knew how much I struggled, and it was good to discuss those and address those in the documentary.
Now, I’ve got Dancing on Ice. I’m totally out of my comfort zone. I can’t dance on the dancefloor, so I don’t know how I’m going to dance on ice (laughs)! I’ll give it a good go though. It’s a new adventure and a few years ago, I don’t think Dancing on Ice would have even asked me to go on it because I was in such a bad place.
I’m not going to win it, but if anyone else is sat at home who may have suffered with some of the problems that I went through and I can make them laugh and entertain them on the ice rink like I did in the boxing ring…if it helps people overcome some of their issues or inspires people to do something about their life, that’s why I’m doing it.
That’s what my life is all about now. I’m moving forward, doing positive things that I enjoy. I nearly wasn’t here to enjoy some of these opportunities and also to see my daughters grow-up, watching my son Campbell turn professional and training my fighters.
Do you class Tony Bellew as a friend, and what do you make of him on I'm A Celeb so far?
Tony’s a great friend of mine. We used to box together when we were younger, we boxed with the England school boys.
Everyone knows Tony Bellew as a World Champion, a big Everton fan. The thing is with shows like this, you get to see what that person is really like. People see you on the TV with your titles but with these shows, they get the chance to see the real you. Tony sometimes can be quite vocal; he doesn’t hold back. There’s a few people that have turned around to me and said: “that Tony Bellew is a cocky so and so”. That’s not him at all and by being in the jungle he can show who he really is while raising his popularity.
Tony is a solid gold guy.
How do you think he is getting on in the show?
He’s doing alright. He had a bit of difficulty when he was trying to drink them protein shakes, throwing them up (laughs). That was funny. He was coming out with some good stuff too! I think if you’re drinking Kangaroo bollocks or something like that, you’ll do anything you can to take your mind off it. I think I’d have done the same thing.
It's a great show. We’re sat at home watching them with our tea and biscuits while their having spiders climbing all over them starving. It’s a television show and an entertainment show, but it’s a challenge. It’s taken Tony out of his comfort zone and that is how I feel about Dancing on Ice. I’ve never danced on ice before and the first day I went on the ice, I couldn’t stand up! I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. To see what I’m doing know, OK, it’s still not brilliant, but it’s better than what it was, and it gives you a real sense of achievement.
Some people have asked me, “what are you doing a show like that for?” They’ve taken the mickey, but I think when they see me on the show and see how hard it is, they’ll change their mind and think ‘fair play to you, I couldn’t do that’.
It’s tough on the ice.
Can Tony be crowned the King of the Jungle?
There have been a lot of people that have gone in the jungle that haven’t been themselves and play up to the camera. You’ll be sat their watching people thinking their putting on a show.
The majority of people that have won it have been the genuine people. People like Harry Redknapp. You can’t fool the public; they can tell who is genuine and who isn’t. One thing that you’ll see in Tony is him being completely himself. Has he got a chance of winning it? Of course, he has.
On Michael Conlan vs Jordan Gill
What can you tell us about this fight? Who do you think has the advantage?
I know Conlan quite well. He’s boxed at a decent level before. He’ll have the crowd behind him fighting in Belfast, and, to be honest with you, you’ve never seen boxing fans like it in Belfast. The passion the fans have over there – it must be their national sport. I’ve been there a couple of times and been recognised by a couple of eighty-year-old grannies – that’s how much love they have for boxing in Belfast!
The home crowd can make the difference in this fight. It worked for me for Kostya Tszyu, it worked for Billam-Smith in Bournemouth. Conlan might need a bit of help from the crowd.
Both fighters lost in their last fights, so they will both want to bounce back. They will want to put themselves back in the picture again. The crowd will want to play its part, so I’m going to give the edge to Conlan. I think he’s boxed at a slightly higher level.
Caoimhin Agyarko vs Troy Williamson
That is a proper fight. Sometimes when these fights are scheduled, for people in the game, we call this a trade fight. Everyone in and around the boxing world will be looking forward to this fight. This is going to be a great fight.
Agyarko couldn’t have a more fitting nick name. The Black Thunder is so strong and fit! He’s an explosive fighter and I think this one will be the fight of the night.
If I know anything about boxing, and I think I do know a little bit about the game, I can’t see how this fight can’t be anything other than an absolute barnstormer. That’s one fight I’ll be watching.
On Chris Billam-Smith vs Mateusz Masternak
Chris Billam-Smith will make the first defence of his WBO cruiserweight championship against Mateusz Masternak in his hometown – What advice would you offer to Billam-Smith ahead of his first title defence?
These are the things that you want to do as a fighter: defend your title in your home town. Chris is very, very proud of coming from Bournemouth. He’s built his fanbase by fighting regularly in his home town. I had a national fanbase, but it all started in Manchester.
Winning a title in your home town’s football stadium, that’s a box ticked. It will be a very, very proud night for Chris and for Bournemouth. I’ve been there and done that – it’s an amazing feeling to fight in your home town. You want to look back on your career and tick these nights off the list.
He’s got a world title to defend in Bournemouth. They’ll be speaking about him in Bournemouth for years and years. It must be a dream for him.
A little bit like yourself when you boxed, Billam-Smith has got a great relationship with his football club AFC Bournemouth’s fanbase – how much of a boost is it going into a fight knowing you’re going to be well supported?
A lot of people say that boxing is the hardest game in the world. Once that bell goes, you’re in the ring on your own. You can’t bring a sub on if you’re having a bad night.
I can remember when I boxed Kostya Tszyu in the Manchester Arena and nobody gave me a chance. I knew I had to go through so much pain and suffering in order to get the win. I knew that in the early rounds I would have to bite down on gumshield and go through the pain barrier.
Kostya Tszyu quit on his stool at the end of the eleventh round. To be honest, I wasn’t that far behind him, I was ready to give up because I was out on my fight, but I looked into the crowd and could see the love and the passion that fans had for me. I could hear them shouting and I knew I had my nose in front in the fight; I was nearly there. The crowd worked as my twelfth man that night. It raised me and that’s what your fans do.
We’re all proud of our hometown and if he wins this one, then he’s got unification fights and trips to America to look forward to. Everyone that goes to that Bournemouth fight will follow him to the ends of the earth.
On Jesse 'Bam' Rodriguez vs Sunny Edwards
For many fans, this was a fight which needed to be made with the Edwards and Rodriguez being the two best fighters in the flyweight division. What type of a contest are you expecting when they lock horns?
Fights like this need to be made in boxing. This is a great fight and I expect it to be close. It’s a fifty-fifty fight. It’s a big occasion for the weight category.
Sunny has been at the top level for a number of years now. Looking at this fight form the point of view of a boxing trainer, it’s all about getting the fighters the best possible fights but they need to get the right money. There’s no point in having a load of belts in your trophy cabinet if you haven’t been financially rewarded for it.
Sunny has achieved his dream of becoming a World Champion. He would have thought that testing himself against Rodriguez is exactly where he needs to be in this stage at his career. He’s at a stage in his career now where he will be looking to build his legacy while also ensuring that his family is well looked after from a financial point-of-view. He’s picked a dangerous opponent. I think he can beat him, but he will have to dig deep.
On Sunny’s legacy, what’s next for him after this fight? What does the future hold for him?
My advice to Sunny would be, don’t look too far in to the future and focus on your next fight. This is going to be a tough fight for him. If he beats this fella, then who knows. We’re very proud of him in the UK; we’re proud of his achievements. This opponent will build his name in the USA. If he can go over there and win a unification fight, beating their best, that’s how you build a legacy.
I think Sunny is in a similar place to where I’ve been. I achieved my dream by becoming a World Champion, I was the best fighter in my division. I wanted to go and fight in Vegas and do well in America and focus on building my legacy, that’s what will be going through Sunny’s mind. If he wins this fight, I think it will open a lot of doors for him.
That’s the dream. One of the greatest moments of my career was seeing my name in lights on the Vegas strip. Sunny has worked so hard to put himself in this position. If he beats Rodriguez, then maybe he will want to conquer America. He’ll have a better chance of doing that by fighting this dangerous opponent.
On Heavyweight Boxing
How excited are you by the Day of Reckoning heavyweight boxing fight card?
This is a massive card featuring some of the best heavyweight boxers. I like the fights that have been scheduled – it’s a great card and great for boxing fans.
I was in Saudi Arabia for Tyson Fury’s fight with Francis Ngannou. Despite Tyson not boxing to his usual high standard, the event that the Saudi’s put on was a real occasion. It was different class. I’m expecting something similar for these fights and Saudi Arabia looks like it’s going to be the place to be for boxing.
I think boxing needed it (the fight card). So many rival promoters coming together to work on this in Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren, this is what the sport needs to make the biggest fights happen.
For years, fight fans have complained that they haven’t been able to see Joshua vs Fury, Fury vs Usyk or other big, big fights. We’ve been waiting for these fights to be made; a lot of big fights don’t happen because ego can get in the way, or one fighter wants more from the purse – it’s a negotiation.
YouTube and social media boxing has taken over our sport recently. There is more interest in these fights than in the professional game. I’m glad that Saudi Arabia are investing in elite level boxing and putting on these huge events and I’m glad that the promoters are working together. Long may it continue.
How difficult do you think it was to get all of these fighters on the same card and how much credit do the promoters and Saudi deserve for making it happen?
The sport of boxing needs these big fightS, big events. I was very, very proud to be invited to go to Saudi for Tyson’s last fight with so many legends of the sport. I was like a kid in a sweet shop meeting all the legends from the sport; it was an unreal experience.
I don’t think it would have been too difficult to make this card happen. The only reason some of these fights haven’t been made is because of money. The fact that Saudi are investing so much more into the sport, the fact that the Sheikh loves the sport and is investing money into the game he loves, would have meant that there was more money on the table to make these fights happen and satisfy everyone involved. Boxing is all about money and you’re not going to get more than in Saudi Arabia at the moment.
It sounds like I’m having a pop at the promoters here, but I do think this card is what boxing needed. It’s a massive night of elite boxing. The Sheikh is helping bring boxing back to life.
Setting up Joshua vs Wilder
Joshua vs Wilder would be a fight that would get the world of boxing excited. You would pay to watch that – it would be magnificent!
When you think about AJ, a man-mountain, two-time World Champion coming up against Wilder. OK, he doesn’t have the technical ability of AJ, but he only needs to get a couple of shots in as he’s proved time and time again over the year. Wilder has to be up there with one of the biggest, if not the biggest, heavyweight punchers of all time. I wouldn’t teach the kids in my gym to throw hands like Wilder to be honest with you, but when he gets in the ring, he does the job.
Backs Joshua to fight Wilder on his terms
I think AJ is doing the right thing in not taking the Wilder fight now. It’s common for the headline fighter to fight the boxer on the undercard – It’s something I’ve done, it generates interest.
Do you agree with Carl Froch who claimed Joshua is stalling and doesn’t back himself in a fight with Wilder?
It’s hard to say that Anthony Joshua has confidence issues or is worried about fighting Deontay Wilder. When you think about what Joshua has achieved in the sport, two-time World Champion, Olympic Gold Medallist.
Joshua has got plenty of money in the bank. He’s probably sat there thinking ‘look at that power puncher they want me to fight. I’m not fighting him unless I get this’. Why wouldn’t you think like that. I think that’s a sensible approach from AJ.
AJ went into boxing very, very late. His achievements are exceptional. I don’t think Carl was right when he said AJ was worried about fighting Wilder; he probably just wants all the boxes ticked from a financial point-of-view and the timing of the fight has to be right. If I’m fighting Wilder, I want paying. I don’t think he’s avoiding the fight - AJ wouldn’t do that.
Social media boxing and professional boxing can exist in the same world
I think there is room in boxing for social media boxing and the professional game to exist and work alongside each other, but for that to happen, the professional game needs to keep making cards happen that the fans want to see. We all want to see the biggest and the best get in the ring.
At the end of the day, this is the entertainment business. Some people can have too much of an old-school point-of-view on the YouTube fighters, but I think that’s short-sighted. The world has changed with social media and the popularity of some of these guys.
I really believe that both can exist. Let’s have your Jake Pauls and your KSIs as long as AJ fights Wilder and Tyson fights Usyk and Spence fights Crawford, then I’m not bothered about all the rest of it. I’m old-school in a sense that I just want to see the biggest fights happen and if the social media fights are helping (promoters work together), then that’s great.
Joshua to face Walling next
On Anthony Joshua vs Otto Wallin
Joshua is training with Ben Davison, a man who has trained Tyson Fury, Billy Joe Saunders and Josh Taylor – what will he be looking to bring out of Joshua?
Ben Davison is a great trainer. He has great knowledge of the sport for a relatively young coach. I’ve seen him in action first-hand when Tyson used to train in my gym in Manchester. Davison also invited me into Tyson’s corner when he fought Wilder in the USA, so I can’t speak highly enough of Ben. He’s a very talented trainer.
I don’t understand why this is a one-off deal though. If it’s a one-off deal, then it seems like this arrangement has been made purely for money. When I was fighting, there was a gentleman in my corner called Billy Graham who was my brother, best mate and trainer rolled into one. When things got tough in fights, I would into Billy Graham’s eye’s and think to myself ‘the advice that he is giving me is purely for me and me only because of the love that he had for me’.
Some boxers can work with one trainer on a one-time basis. I’m not judging AJ for doing this, but it is a very different relationship to the one that I had with my trainer. I knew that Billy wasn’t there because he needed to pay the mortgage, he was there for me. I always find it strange when boxers do one-off deals like that but that’s because of my relationship with Billy.
I think Ben Davison will add a lot to AJ’s game. I can’t speak highly enough of him.
When Joshua lost his cool in his rematch to Oleksandr Usyk and got on the mic and starting ranting and raving, I was sat there thinking to myself ‘why hasn’t anyone from his corner got into the ring to protect him?’ He’s kicking off with everyone. He lost it – I was angry that his team didn’t protect him. They should have got him straight in the changing room. That wouldn’t have happened is Ben Davison was in AJ’s corner that night. Ben cares for his fighters.
Joshua will be impressed with Ben. I don’t think this will be a one-off deal – I think we’ll be seeing the relationship continue.
Every time AJ fights, the pressure is on to impress. What type of a challenge does Wallin represent and how do you think he will approach the fight?
I think that AJ will knock him out. I don’t think that he’s good enough to beat AJ. We saw Wallin fight Fury; he’ll give a good account of himself. This is a good stepping-stone fight for AJ. He’s had a couple of stepping-stone fights now; a couple of warm-ups. These fights would have boosted his confidence after the Usyk defeat.
He's going to be in a training camp with a new trainer. His confidence will go up even further after working with Ben. All roads lead to the Wilder fight for AJ.
I think that he gets an awful lot of stick, which is really unfair. All you need to do is look at his career to date. He’s been beaten a couple of times by Usyk. He’s had some funny things going on in his corner since he left Robert McCracken – I’m not sure why he left him to be honest – but now he’s working with Ben and he’s on track for a big fight with Wilder.
There’s no shame in getting beat by Usyk, but it would have shattered his confidence a little bit. Let’s let him get his head back together and stop giving him stick. I think he deserves a bit of a break.
Wilder and Parker to clash in Saudi
On Deontay Wilder vs Joseph Parker
Who do you think will win this fight?
I love Joe Parker. I’ve spent a bit of time with Joe in the Tyson camp. I think he’s a great, great lad. I was at his last fight in Saudi where he put on a really great performance.
Wilder can’t take his eye off the ball; he can’t underestimate Joe. Everyone thinks it’s a forgone conclusion that Wilder will win this fight and then fight Joshua, which is a bit disrespectful towards Parker and Wallin.
Technically, Joe is a really gifted boxer. He’s a good size. Wilder has massive punching power but isn’t the best technically. If Wilder takes his eye off the ball, then Joe could come in and steal the limelight. He is capable of beating Wilder and has boxed at a high level for a number of years now.
We don’t know how much Wilder has got left do we? He had those three fights with Tyson Fury that were absolute wars – there were signs of wear and tear in Tyson’s last fight; and he beat Wilder! We won’t know until Wilder gets into the ring. He could be suffering from those fights, and it could be a good time for Joe to fight him.
Most people would back Wilder as the heavy favourite because of his punching power. I hope Joe can swim the channel and pull off a surprise – I love him to bits.
On Daniel Dubois vs Jarrell Miller
Dubois will be looking to bounce back after the Usyk. are you expecting him to take out his frustration after everything that happened?
I’m expecting a big performance from Daniel – he has to come back in this fight. I think he’s taken some unfair criticism over the last year. Looking back to the low-blow decision that went against him in the Usyk fight, the punch that he landed was on the band.
I didn’t see where the referee said was legal or illegal when they touched gloves in round one. It was on the belt (the punch). It really depends on what the referee said at the beginning of the fight.
There’s two ways of looking at what Usyk did. You could say that he was a little bit of a coward for staying down and taking as much time as possible to recover from the punch or you could say he was very clever and knew exactly what he was doing. When you’ve got Daniel Dubois – a big, powerful guy - coming onto you, and you get hit with a low blow, you’re entitled to your five minutes, and he took all of them! When you’re as fit as these guys, five minutes is a life time.
I think Daniel’s had a little bit of bad luck. People said he gave up early in the Joyce fight, which I think is harsh. I don’t think he did. There’s nothing more painful than getting those bruises on your eye.
This is a great opportunity for Daniel. He’s on a massive card and the fact is because he’s on a card with guys like AJ and Wilder, he’s in the mix now. He needs to win this fight convincingly and you never know where it can take him. I think his time will come.
Hatton backing Fury
On Fury vs Usyk
Some people are suggesting that Fury needs to change his style and potentially look for a new trainer, leave SugarHill, to beat Fury – what are your thoughts on that?
It seems to me that after every boxer has an off performance, everyone seems to think change your trainer. When I left Billy Graham and went with Floyd Mayweather Sr, it was only because of injuries. I wouldn’t have entertained the idea of moving trainers.
Sometimes when you have an off performance, you swallow it. Take it on the chin and get back in the gym with the same trainer, the person you’re used to working with. Fighters nowadays, after a bad performance, they seem to switch things up.
Nobody knows AJ better than Robert McCracken. I don’t see why he wanted to leave him…work with the trainer that knows you best. Tyson’s last fight was iffy, but that doesn’t mean he should change trainers.
I’m not ready for my pipe and slippers, but I’m a bit old-school and believe that you shouldn’t make big changes in the aftermath of some poor performances. Don’t blame the trainer, take a look at your own performance. Get back in the gym and work on your weak points.
I think Tyson has a good team around him. When I’ve seen them in Morcambe, it looks like a happy camp, and everyone is focussed. Just because Tsyon wasn’t at his best in the Ngannou fight doesn’t mean he needs to make drastic changes.
In his last fight, against Francis Ngannou, do you think Fury underestimated the fighter? Do you think he trained with the same intensity as he normally does?
There’s no point in arguing about it, in his last fight Big T wasn’t good. He wasn’t good that night. I haven’t spoke to him since then, but knowing him as well as I do, it looked like he took his foot of the gas a little bit in the Ngannou fight.
Maybe he got caught up in the spectacle of the event because it was like a rock concert! There were so many stars there and it was a massive occasion.
Ngannou was big unit of a man. OK, he had never boxed before and everything else, but he was a capable fighter. Maybe Tyson took his eye off the ball. Maybe he could have put his foot down like we’ve seen him do in previous fights.
I do think that the performance in that fight was probably the best thing that could have happened to him going into the Usyk fight. Tyson doesn’t need Ricky Hatton to tell him that is going to be a different fight; he’ll know that he will need to prepare differently for this fight. I think Tyson took Ngannou a little bit lightly. We’ve all been there before where you’re in a stepping stone fight that you win, but the performance wasn’t at your usual standard. You win the fight, but you also learn what not to do in your next fight. Fury will be better for it.
If the Tyson that fought Ngannou turns up against Usyk, he’ll get beat. The Ngannou fight has woken him up and it looks like it’s all worked out for the best.
This will be a tough fight. It’s hard to back against him. He’s fought Wilder, Chisora, big, massive lumps of men and he outboxed them. Usyk is a different challenge. He’s a lot smaller, he fights in a different style. If anyone is going to beat Tyson, then Usyk will. He won’t sit in there with Tyson like the last boxers he’s fought – he’ll pop off shots and move. That’s something that Tyson hasn’t had to deal with for about five years.
I’m still backing Fury to get the job done. His hand speed, movement , defence, I think he’ll be too much for Usyk.
John Fury said recently of Tyson that “In his last three fights, I have seen a bit of decline, a decline in strength, power, and physical condition”. Do you think he’s trying to motivate his son and do you share any of his concerns about Fury?
That’s John Fury for you. He doesn’t mince his words, our John. Whatever he thinks or feels, he says it. I think there could be some truth in John’s statement. Tyson has been at it for a number of years now. He had them three fantastic fights with Wilder. The biggest challenge that he’s had in his career was dealing with his demons and mental health, problems with drink and drugs. I saw him at his biggest – he was twenty-two stone – they used to call me Ricky Fatton and take the mickey out of me for losing three stone, Tyson lost ten! Imagine what that does to your body.
He's only had one bad performance, but John might have a point. How much have those Wilder fights taken out of Tyson? I have nothing but total love and respect for John, but maybe he went a little bit early with those comments.
Benn and Eubank to clash early 2024
On Benn vs Eubank Jr
Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jnr are expected to finally fight on February 3 – this is a controversial fight for a number of reasons. Does the world need to see this fight?
I think the boxing world needs the fight. This is going to be a box office event because of the family history between the two fighters – it will be a big seller in the UK.
Then you’ve got the history of the last fight – the failed drug test. Then there is the issue around the weight of the fighters, fighting out of each other’s category.
When you think Liam Smith knocked out Chris Eubank Jr. the first time, for someone that had such a solid chin, for him to take that KO… then you saw how Eubank reserved that by boxing Smith so fantastically in the rematch. Chris Eubank was trying to get his weight down to fight Conor Benn the first time around, the fight didn’t happen and he went in immediately with Liam Smith right away. I think taking his weight down could have had an effect on his ability to take punches.
The only worry I have about this fight is the health of the fighters. At the end of the day, I’m close to the Benn family, and this will be a great occasion. I think that sometimes that the main thing is the health of the boxers.
It will generate a lot of publicity, tickets will sell-out. I’d pay to go and see it. I think the world of the Benn family and have great respect for the Eubank’s, I just hope that everything is done properly.