Dave Oakes previews Friday's British light-heavyweight title clash between champion Tony Bellew and challenger Danny McIntosh.
Tony Bellew steps back to British title level this Friday night when he defends his light-heavyweight title against former European champion Danny McIntosh. Both are coming in off the back of a loss - Bellew fell short at world level last time out, losing a majority decision to Nathan Cleverly in a battle that was more competitive than had been anticipated, whilst McIntosh was dropped and stopped by Eduard Gutknecht.
There’s been a change in Bellew’s style since he climbed off the canvas a couple of times to beat Ovill McKenzie in their first meeting in late 2010. The gung-ho bombs away style has been replaced by a more thoughtful method based on using the skills he honed in the amateurs. As was seen against Cleverly, and in the McKenzie rematch, Bellew is better technically than most thought and does all the basics well enough not to take the unnecessary risks he’d been doing previously.
Questions remain about the Liverpudlians chin; he’s been down a few times but has always managed to beat the count, which must partly be due to his hard work and professionalism in training. Bellew is big for a light-heavyweight and has admitted that he has to work incredibly hard to make the weight - something that won’t be helping him in the chin department, although his stamina and recuperation capabilities have clearly been aided by the gym work done to shed the weight.
McIntosh hasn’t fought in nearly a year, one senses the defeat he suffered against Gutknecht took a lot out of him both physically and mentally. Hopefully the break will have reinvigorated him and he’ll be raring to go come fight night. A fit and focused McIntosh should provide the champion with a good test.
The standout victory on McIntosh’s 13-2 (7) record is his come from behind knockout of Thierry Karl to win the European title. Fighting away from home, it looked like McIntosh was putting in a spirited but fruitless performance. It all changed in the eleventh round though when he found a huge right that had Karl on unsteady legs, the referee intervening with Karl falling to pieces from the subsequent barrage.
Any hopes of building on that superb victory were derailed in his first defence against Gutknecht. Those two title fights showed the good and bad in McIntosh - he’s a steady if not spectacular boxer, he can bang a bit with either hand, but is vulnerable around the whiskers and can be outboxed at times.
The only other defeat on McIntosh’s record is a seventh round stoppage by Nathan Cleverly. A lot of people are comparing Bellew’s performance against Cleverly to McIntosh’s and believe Bellew will win easily. Whilst that may turn out to be true, styles make fights and this is by no means a walkover. When you take into consideration Bellew’s own vulnerabilities, as well as the improvements McIntosh has made since facing the Welshman, this is a fight that could go either way.
Bellew is correctly regarded as the favourite, he’s got hometown advantage to go with his better skills and punch power but one big shot from McIntosh could turn the fight on its head at any moment. The most likely outcome is that Bellew will outbox McIntosh and slowly take him apart before forcing a mid to late rounds stoppage, however, he’ll have to be conscientious throughout to do so.