Bellew back with a bang
Tony Bellew survived a seventh-round crisis to mark his debut at cruiserweight with a late stoppage victory against Valery Brudov at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
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Stepping up a division after failing in a second bid to win a world title at light-heavyweight, the Evertonian demonstrated his extra power, thanks to adding 16lbs in lean muscle, by putting his opponent down three times in total.
Having already floored his Russian rival in the second and the sixth, Bellew made sure the judges' scorecards would not be needed with a chilling left hook in the closing minute of the contest.
However he almost suffered a knockdown himself after walking onto a big right hand in a dramatic seventh round, one that not only took his legs from him but also sent his gum shield flying out, such was the force of the blow.
Yet in attempting to pile on the pressure Brudov caught Bellew with an extremely low blow, giving him the chance to take a breather as he recovered in his corner.
The extra time allowed him to clear his head and following a rocket from trainer David Coldwell, a new addition to the Bellew corner since he was stopped by Adonis Stevenson last November, he returned to working behind his solid jab.
The 31-year-old - who had stated in the build-up to the fight he would retire if beaten in his own backyard - seemed content to go the distance until producing a spectacular finish that lifted the crowd off their feet and left poor Brudov unable to get to his before the count of 10.
"I'm happy," Bellew told Sky Sports. "It's a six out of 10. I won - that's the main thing.
"I switched off. I said this was going to be a tough fight and believe me, at this weight I can punch. I took him clean off his feet a couple of times, especially the second. I thought 'that is good night now', and he got up. I thought 'welcome to the cruiserweight division'.
"I've come back from a loss, and a significant loss, so I've had a lot of questions to answer. Not to anyone else but me. I'm the one who puts my head on the pillow at night.
"This guy has more KO's than I've had fights. I'm happy I've done it late on too, as it shows I carry power."
Bellew - who had flattened Brudov in the second with a lovely straight right, then put his opponent down again with a left-right combination four rounds later - admitted he had no interest in ruling at domestic level, instead insisting his eyes were focused on another world title tilt.
"I'm 31. I'm not getting any younger," he added. "I'm in this sport to provide a living for my three boys and to become a world champion. "
Meanwhile on the undercard, Rocky Fielding registered a points success over veteran Ghanaian Charles Adamu - a former foe of both Carl Froch and George Groves.
However, Fielding had already surrendered his Commonwealth super-middleweight title after failing to make the limit at Friday's weigh-in.