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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chilemba-Bellew II Preview

The first fight on March 30 between light heavyweight contenders Isaac Chilemba and Tony Bellew ended in a disputed and unsatisfying draw. The two men will battle once again on May 25, this time at the O2 Arena in London, England.

In the first fight, Bellew (19-1-1, 12 KOs) began aggressively, but he wasn't able to touch Chilemba (20-1-2, 9 KOs) because of Isaac's slippery defense. Chilemba got off to a slow start offensively and didn't begin to fire with any regularity until the seventh round. Isaac admitted afterwards that he caught the flu two days before the fight, which may have hampered his offense.

But Chilemba is a slow-starter even when healthy, a habit he will have to break for this bout. The man from Malawi does have a tendency to finish strong, which will help him in a scheduled twelve round affair. The key for Chilemba in the rematch will be to keep his punch output up throughout the bout. He was at his best when coming forward and, once Bellew developed respect for Isaac's power in second half of their first fight, Tony was hesitant to unleash his punches.

Bellew will need to jab early and often, a punch he surprisingly failed to use in their first match. Chilemba is too cagey on defense, so Bellew will need to aim that jab at his opponent's chest to slow him down. The first fight showed that Bellew won't be successful if he tries to rough up Chilemba or tries to load up for a big shot. By jabbing to the chest and cutting off the ring, Bellew will hope to keep Chilemba stationary enough to land his more powerful right hand.

At today's press conference, Chilemba was gracious, "I thank Tony for taking the rematch, being strong about it." He added, "I believe I won the fight last time. I'm not here to defeat Tony, I'm here to defeat my own performance I put up last time."

Bellew said he was "looking forward" to the rematch. Yesterday, he told Sky Sports, "To make a great fight happen it takes two to tangle and it takes two guys who really want to make a fight. I am willing to play my part in it. It is whether he is willing to play his part. The real difference on the night is my output and this time I’m not going to stop after seven." The implication is that Bellew would prefer a brawl and was frustrated by Chilemba's boxing the first time around.

Since the first fight, both boxers' stock has fallen a smidgen. The Transnational Boxing Rankings has Chilemba as the tenth best man in the division while Bellew is just out of the top ten (Chilemba was ninth and Bellew tenth before their first fight). But The Ring has Chilemba rated at number seven and Bellew at eight (Chilemba was seventh and Bellew ninth before their first fight).

The winner will still earn a title shot against the recognized light heavyweight world champion. Chad Dawson, the champion, is scheduled to face hard-punching Adonis Stevenson on June 8.

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