The former world champion boxer – and big Everton fan – tells Goal why he’s got a shuttle booked for Saturday evening
“I’ve booked a shuttle to the moon. It leaves at about 9.45pm on Saturday!”
Tony Bellew plans to watch the Champions League final this weekend, even if he would rather not.
As a former world champion boxer, Bellew is used to gruelling, painful nights. And as a born and bred Evertonian, watching Liverpool lift the European Cup for the sixth time would certainly fall into that category.
“I know, I know,” says Bellew. “It would be hell, wouldn’t it?”
Bellew makes no secret of his disdain for the Reds – ‘The Devil’s Club,’ he calls them – but he expects Jurgen Klopp’s side to break his heart on Saturday.
“I will never ever allow myself to think they will lose,” he says. “Experience tells me you just don’t do that.
“When they lost 3-0 in Barcelona, my Blue mates were loving it and I was telling them all to be quiet, to say nothing because it will come back and bite us. Did they not learn anything from Istanbul?!”
Bellew is speaking from Monaco, where he is a guest of the SportPesa Racing Point F1 team. The former WBC cruiserweight king is a global ambassador of SportPesa, who of course just happen to sponsor his beloved Everton.
“It’s about giving back to young kids,” he tells Goal. “It’s been a real eye-opener for me, I can tell you. I spent some time over in Africa recently, in Kenya, and to see the upbringing these children are having is humbling. It gives you a new outlook.
“I thought I came from a rough area. Well my house was like Buckingham Palace compared to what I saw over there. I visited a boxing gym and they had no gloves, no pads, no bags. And this gym created a world champion, Fatuma Zarika. Imagine what they can do with a bit of help, funding and support?”
Bellew’s Everton roots may never be far from the surface, but there is one Liverpudlian he’ll be rooting for this weekend.
A few hours after the Champions League final, Callum Smith defends his WBA super-middleweight belt against Hassan N’Dam in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Bellew and Smith go way back. They came from the same gym, the Rotunda ABC in Kirkdale, and both have gone on to achieve their boyhood dreams of becoming world champion.
Bellew’s big moment, of course, was straight out of a Hollywood script. He was crowned at Goodison Park, home of his beloved Blues, knocking out Ilunga Makabu to become WBC cruiserweight king in May 2016.
Smith retains similar ambitions. A mega-fight against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the unified middleweight champion, looms on the horizon should he defeat N’Dam this weekend. Anfield has been mentioned, tentatively, as a possible venue.
“I can’t see Canelo coming over here, to be honest,” says Bellew. “But I would absolutely love it if he did. I’d love to see him fight Callum at Anfield. I’d even go there for that one!
“Callum is one of the best to ever come out of this city, and did brilliantly to win the World Boxing Super Series. It’s a huge ask against Canelo, who for me is the best counter-puncher in the world. I don’t like the fella, but I admire his ability. Pound-for-pound, there’s possibly only [Vasyl] Lomachenko who is more complete.
“But I know better than to write Callum Smith off. He’s had to fight for everything all his life, and I know how much it means to him. Anfield is the dream, but I can see that fight being made for Las Vegas next year. And believe me, there’s a lot of risk in it for Canelo.”
As for Bellew, he is enjoying the first stages of retirement having hung up his gloves following his defeat to undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk last November.
“It’s good, I’m happy,” he says. “I’m very busy with a few businesses and companies, and I’m doing some media and ambassadorial work.
“The main thing is I’m spending time with my family, and I’m not getting punched in the face any more. That’s always a bonus!”
Bellew’s love of Everton, of course, is well known, and the 36-year-old remains a Goodison regular. So what has he made of the Toffees’ progress under Marco Silva?
“Started well, iffy in the middle, finished well,” he says. “We’ve beaten some big, big teams recently, which is great. Drilling Manchester United 4-0 is always enjoyable!
“The boss has done very well in my opinion. This, remember, isn’t Silva’s squad. He’s still dealing with players that were left for him, and I’ll be interested to see the changes he makes in the summer. He’s very thorough and he knows what he wants.
“I’m a realist, not a fantasist. I know the Champions League is unrealistic for now, but I’d love to see us improve and get into the Europa League, then build again from there.
“It’s been great to hear the atmosphere at Goodison of late, and we know what a difference that can make. You only need to look over the park at the Devil’s club to see that. I love Goodison when it’s loud and nasty and intimidating. I hope it can stay that way next season.”
That’s just about it from Bellew, except for one final question.
What if Liverpool lose on Saturday? What will happen to his shuttle then?
“It’ll be the world’s biggest firework,” he laughs. “And I’ll be able to show my face in the city over the summer!”
Tony Bellew is an ambassador for SportPesa. Find out more about SportPesa’s products and SportPesa Racing Point here .
Click Here: Maori All Blacks Store