Tony Bellew firmly believes he deserved the win this past weekend against Isaac Chilemba, but there's really no doubt that his performance left a bit to be desired (with all due respect to Chilemba being a tough opponent), and even promoter Eddie Hearn feels as though the fight may have shown that Bellew wasn't ready for his targeted fight with Chad Dawson later this year.
"On that performance, maybe he is not ready for a Chad Dawson, so maybe it's a blessing in disguise. Maybe he needs to build again, learn more and come back better because I don't think on that performance he may have been able to deal with Dawson."
Bellew, 30, is probably about as good as he's going to get, realistically, and there's really no shame in having gone even with Chilemba, a quality contender in his own right. The light heavyweight division is without question weak at the moment; fighters like Dawson and Bernard Hopkins stand out, with Sergey Kovalev perhaps ready to really inject some excitement into the weight class.
Hearn is likely right that Bellew isn't really "ready" for Dawson, in that I expect almost everyone would pick Dawson to win that fight, even given that Chad doesn't currently have the hottest career in the world. But it may be a fool's bet to think that Bellew can improve enough to be notably better than he is now, given that he's at an advanced age, and pretty much a totally finished product.
Will Bellew ever get to the point where he's a really credible threat to Dawson? Or, on the other hand, do you think Hearn may be overrating Dawson a bit with his assessment?