- Tony Bellew v Isaac Chilemba
Bellew edges Chilemba to book belated world title shot
Tony Bellew edged a war of attrition on Saturday to defeat the resilient Isaac Chilemba at the second time of asking and finally book a shot at the WBC light-heavyweight title.
Bellew successfully defended his WBC silver light-heavyweight strap after another close-fought brawl with Chilemba - improving on the hotly-disputed draw the pair played out back in March to grab a unanimous decision victory in the O2 Arena.
The three judges scored the fight 116-112, 117-112 and 116-112 - giving Bellew a narrow edge over the man from Malawi after 24 rounds of brutal boxing and, more importantly, the right to fight Chad Dawson or Adonis Stevenson for the WBC strap.
"I'm just happy," an emotional Bellew said afterwards. "There were times I hated boxing these last eight weeks. I've tortured myself since the last fight ... but tonight I got in here and did what [my trainers] said."
Determined to improve on a first showing that neither fighter was particularly happy with, it was Bellew who enjoyed the better of the early rounds - intimidating Chilemba with his power and quickly dominating proceedings.
However, the Liverpudlian was expending a lot of energy with his constant combinations, efforts that began to take their toll as the rounds wore on - with the more polished Chilemba growing into matters over the middle rounds.
Bellew still perhaps held a slender advantage going into the final phase of the contest but, while he was swinging and missing with indisciplined punches, Chilemba was content to slip those lunges before popping off more accurate jabs of his own.
Fearing their fighter remained down on the scorecards heading into the final round, however, Chilemba was ordered by his corner to go for the knockout. That set the stage for a barnstorming finish with both fighters swinging wildly in a desperate bid for a decisive blow - but one would not come, sending matters to the three ringside judges.
Bellew's workrate throughout the contest could not be questioned and, perhaps with that in mind, the judges duly announced a victory that was greeted vociferously by the home crowd.
"Last time I was lucky I didn't go out the ring on stretcher," Bellew concluded. "This time I saw his heart getting smaller and smaller. I told the gaffer 'He doesn't want to know here', and I went from there.
"I know all you people doubted me - on Twitter, on forums ... you know what? Stick it up your a***."