Tony Bellew has laid down the gauntlet to fellow British boxer David Haye after finally becoming a world champion on Sunday night (29 May). The passionate Evertonian, known as "Bomber", was knocked down early on against powerful southpaw Ilunga Makabu at Goodison Park but bounced back in fine style to secure a comprehensive third-round stoppage and claim the vacant WBC cruiserweight title.
For Bellew, who picked up the EBU belt by outpointing Mateusz Masternak in December 2015, it was third time lucky after each of his previous world title challenges – both fought at light-heavyweight – ended in disappointment against Nathan Cleverly and Adonis Stevenson respectively. He was in celebratory mood after the fight, challenging both Haye and unified WBA and IBF champion Denis Lebedev.
"I've just beaten the best cruiserweight in the world, I'm the best now I don't care what they all say," Bellew, who made his silver screen debut last year by playing "Pretty" Ricky Conlan in Rocky sequel Creed, told Sky Sports.
"Denis Lebedev, I ain't coming to Russia, come and get this baby, because I've got the main belt now. I'm the man to beat in this division, come and get this.
"Or that b**** from Bermondsey (Haye), I'll fight him too, come back down to your natural weight and fight a real cruiserweight, because you've gone long enough fighting them clowns."
Haye fought the first six years of his professional career at cruiserweight, blitzing the division and losing only once en route to becoming WBA, WBC, WBO and lineal champion. He later held the WBA heavyweight title following victory over Nikolai Valuev in November 2009 and successfully defended his crown against both John Ruiz and Audley Harrison before losing to Wladimir Klitschko via a unanimous decision.
After beating Dereck Chisora, the 35-year-old later endured a three-and-a-half year hiatus due to reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder that led to him twice cancelling scheduled bouts with Tyson Fury. He finally made his return to the ring in January, needing just 130 seconds to wipe out Mark de Mori before following that up with a dominant stoppage of Arnold "The Cobra" Gjergjaj last weekend.
He is due to meet Shannon Briggs in September after the eccentric American, who has been goading him for weeks, knocked out replacement opponent Emilio Ezequiel Zarate on the undercard of that latter contest. A lucrative domestic clash with newly-crowned IBF champion Anthony Joshua remains the long-term goal.