‘I’m still struggling, I’m never going to stop missing my brother am I?’ Tony Bellew has turned to Anthony Joshua’s dietitian to help him upset Usyk but he can’t shed the weight of family tragedy
- Tony Bellew spoke exclusively to Sportsmail ahead of facing Oleksandr Usyk
- Liverpool-born star has revealed death of brother-in-law will always affect him
- Bellew, 35, has spent his camp for Saturday’s fight in Rotherham’s Holiday Inn
- He has employed Anthony Joshua’s nutritionist to help him shed weight
One more time. One more brutal time. After 20 years and 33 professional bouts, Tony Bellew now hopes the last cut is the richest.
For the past three months, ahead of the biggest fight of his life, the Bomber has been cutting time spent with his family and cutting weight off his fleshy frame.
At 35, he knows it will never grow easier but that it has never been more important. Yet as he has found out on lonely evenings in Rotherham’s Holiday Inn Express, some baggage cannot be shed through gruelling diets, training, or even time.
Tony Bellew is preparing for the final fight of his career against Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday
Following his brother-in-law’s death, the Bomber broke down after beating David Haye
On Saturday in Manchester he can become the first British fighter to hold all four major belts
After almost two years at heavyweight, Bellew has turned to Anthony Joshua’s nutritionist as he strips down to the cruiserweight limit of 200lbs for Saturday’s showdown with undisputed world champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Yet no one, or nothing, has been able to rid the Liverpool fighter of the pain caused by true loss.
More than a year has passed since Bellew’s brother-in-law, Ashley Roberts, died aged 32 while on holiday in Cancun. But some scars never fade.
‘I’m still struggling, I’m never going to stop missing my brother am I? What can you do… heartbreaking is the only word.’
When Sportsmail caught up with Bellew last month, another camp under trainer David Coldwell was taking its toll both physically and emotionally.
For nine weeks he had starved himself of junk food and, more punishingly, the harness keeping him from sinking lower.
‘The best way of dealing with it is to spend time with my family,’ he claims. ‘But the fact is I’m always away from home because I’m in a stupid hotel preparing for an animal on November 10.’
The tragedy dominated Bellew’s preparations for his rematch with David Haye in May. And in the moments after another stoppage win the dam finally burst. The latest crescendo of a money-spinning career ended with the Scouser on his knees in floods of tears.
Bellew has starved himself of junk food and the harness keeping him from sinking lower
The Liverpool fighter returns to the ring for the first time since stopping Haye back in May
‘Boxing actually helps me get through,’ he claims. But standing in his way on Saturday is a different problem altogether.
Usyk is coming off the back of victory in the World Boxing Super Series and the Ukrainian knows Bellew holds the key to mainstream notoriety.
For the Bomber, meanwhile, the chance to become the first British fighter to hold all four major belts (and the coveted Ring Magazine title) was carrot enough to defy his wife’s wishes and put himself through the mill once more.
Bellew began his career at light-heavyweight so he is no stranger to stripping his body of excess.
But this final time he met Mark Ellison to see if AJ’s dietician could somehow ease the pain.
Within nine weeks he had already shed 30lbs. But Ellison is no miracle-worker and Bellew no fantasist.
‘If I did end up with a body like Anthony Joshua, I’d better slap myself because I’ll be dreaming,’ he laughs.
‘I had a meeting with (Ellison), we talked about things that weren’t in place… (but) I can’t put it down to anyone but myself.’
Bellew has worked with nutritionist Mark Ellison (fourth from right) who helps Anthony Joshua
Usyk is unbeaten and coming off the back of victory in inaugural World Boxing Super Series
He adds: ‘No nutritionist can make you do it for you, he’s not the one in the hotel sitting with me on my own at 8 o’clock in the night when you’re hungry, when you have to train to get a bit of weight off and you’re tired.
‘It comes down to the individual and the amount of sacrifice and dedication he’s willing to show.’
Bellew already works with Kerry Kayes, the brains behind Ricky Hatton’s periodic transformations from ‘Fatton’ to the chiselled light-welterweight champion.
And the Bomber knows he has no room for shortcuts.
‘You can’t outrun a bad diet – I haven’t had a piece of bread in two months, I haven’t had a fizzy drink in two months, I haven’t had chocolate, I haven’t had one bit of s***e.’
Whatever happens on Saturday, Bellew can toast a fine career with the Chinese he has long been craving.
But victory will give him the rare chance to retire on top – something that, even at 35, would be bittersweet.
For so long, boxing has been Bellew’s life but now it represents the biggest threat to his marriage.
BELLEW V USYK: TALE OF THE TAPE
Height: 6′ 3″ / 191cm
Reach: 74″ / 188cm
Height: 6′ 3″ / 190cm
Reach: 78″ / 198cm
‘She’s been pleading with me to stop,’ he says of wife Rachael, who he claims will file for divorce if he carries on any longer.
‘I still feel kind of wrong because I’ve been putting this game and myself first for so many years and I need stop this now and put my family and my kids first,’ he admits.
‘It’s f****** stupid, I’m risking everything for a dream.’
Pulling Bellew back in is an enduring love of fighting and a drive to prove people wrong.
So while many boxers spend their thirties raging against the dying of the light, Bellew must find a way to put it out. Or, at least, another way to fan the flame.
‘Boxing keeps me sane – that’s the best way of saying it,’ he says. ‘I could literally kill someone with my bare hands on some days, you get that angry.’
He adds: ‘But I’m sure other things will take its place, I have a very successful property portfolio that I’ve built up along with my wife and my kids. That’s going fantastically well, I’ve got other business opportunities in the security world that we take care of, (promoter) Eddie Hearn wants me to come on board… there are so many opportunities at my disposal and while I’m not universally a very educated person, I’m pretty street smart, I wouldn’t say clever but I know how to make money.’
He has always been a master of the business of boxing. Bellew achieved his ambition of owning 10 terraced houses long ago and when he signed to fight Haye many assumed he was risking a beating for a good payday. But now we ask: was it just an example of his eye for a good deal?
Bellew shows off his cut-down frame at the end of another camp under trainer Dave Coldwell
Against Usyk he returns to cruiserweight following almost two years spent at heavyweight
‘No, because it wasn’t the right time it’s just styles make fights,’ Bellew insists.
‘Going into that first fight, people said they feared for my life. So why is it now, all of a sudden, people want to associate it with him being an old man… all of a sudden it’s now a calculated risk.’
Nights like those have helped pay for a life unrecognisable from the one he endured growing up.
But for every camp over the past five years he has come to Rotherham, and chosen to deprive himself of all luxuries.
‘I eat out of Tupperware tubs – body fuel meals, which are fantastic diet meals but let’s be totally honest it’s not f****** KFC, it’s not McDonald’s, it’s not a Chinese meal, it’s crap’ he says.
‘(I have) my iPad, that’s about as good as it gets, and FaceTimes to my kids. That’s all I do… I don’t need to be in that hotel but I go there for the simple reason: it makes me want to kill the world.
? ? @TonyBellew #UsykBellew pic.twitter.com/V8m37Novgr
He adds: ‘With just a room, microwave and telly, there’s only so much of Countdown, Tipping Point and The Chase you can put up with… after nine weeks of being in this s***hole and not seeing my kids when I want to see them, missing school plays, missing assemblies, I just want to be violent, that’s the best way of saying it. Violence is soon coming and I cannot wait.’
Fuelled by frustration, Bellew has broken new ground in the gym, even with 2kg weights attached to each arm.
‘The record I threw was over 500 punches in a three-minute round,’ he reveals.
Two to three punches a second, all in pursuit of those five belts.
But whatever the outcome on Saturday, Bellew believes he has already ‘clocked the game’.
‘I’ve won in life,’ he claims. ‘I was a kid who left school with no qualifications, I was working on a nightclub door at 16, 17 years of age, strapping a bullet-proof vest on to go to work on a Saturday night with people telling us they’re going to shoot you. Now look where I am now… I can’t lose.’
Tony Bellew is an ambassador for SportPesa. Check out SportPesa’s offers for Usyk vs Bellew at SportPesa.uk
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