(Tony Bellew, left; Edison Miranda, right)
So that was summer. The heavens fell, top flight footballers — bumptious, bumbling millionaires unable to pass a ball — were put in their place by modestly paid Olympians and boxing lurched along in the doldrums save for a domestic showdown that managed to buck a trend in standardized heavyweight eyesores. As a new season gathers speed on Saturday, with an international light heavyweight contest involving a pair of quarrelsome and loosely-wired headbangers, fans will be hoping that thrills and spills can heal track marks on a sport currently bereft of bona fide champions, meaningful weight divisions, impartial world ratings and substantial drug testing procedures.
Tony Bellew has an edge to him that would discourage meeting his glance across a bar. Lairy and burdened with a hair-trigger temper, one has grown used to seeing him aerated among a sea of mediatory arms as he attempts to throttle an opponent after having grown tired of their company throughout the obligatory eve-of-battle eyeballing contest.
Edison Miranda can match Bellew in the barbarous stakes, yet with the Colombian, you feel, it is a full-time job. Bellew is a family man — personable even — away from the ring, a fighter whose belligerence blooms as the fight closes in on him, whereas Miranda was born into bedlam. Abandoned by his teenage mother, “Pantera” (Panther), a mere scrap, was left to master the hardscrabble streets of Buenaventura, Colombia. He slept in ditches at the back of beyond, scavenging like a cockroach on the type of mess you might scrape from a wheel arch. Somehow he survived. And on the other side he unveiled a knack for pounding other men into la-la land.
Miranda bulled through the amateurs before roughhousing his way to 21 straight knockout wins as a professional middleweight. He boxed like a Floyd Mayweather diatribe. Snagging temporarily after relocating to the States in 2005 he proceeded to bury Sherwin Davis before mauling another British “Bomber” in the form of well-regarded Battersea oddball Howard Eastman. It was the final time Eastman would mix in world class. Davis meanwhile failed to win another fight.
Arthur Abraham got it next. Miranda commuted to Hessen, Germany, and left the Armenian’s face in pieces. “King” Arthur was the recipient of 24 different screws and rods (in his jaw) and in addition, a partisan referee that allowed him to see out an early lead that would have been irrelevant any place else. Miranda gained in defeat but as his purses swelled his hunger waned. Stoppage defeats to Kelly Pavlik and Abraham followed. The fire appeared to have gone out. A mere stepping stone at super middleweight for the likes of Andre Ward and Lucian Bute since, he is a lesser force again at 175 lbs. Reputation rather than form brings him to London’s Alexandra Palace, a 19th century recreation centre, opened by the Victorians and later commandeered by the BBC.
Bellew hits with the raw-boned strength of a cruiserweight. Riddick Bowe was an early muse and faint trace lines of the New Yorker remain smudged across Tony’s work. A former ABA champion at heavyweight he too would smother and overcrowd inside, fumbling as Bowe did once — like a grizzly attempting to strip down a salmon.
Devoid of defensive acumen under trainer Anthony Farnell, he began to slouch. Darlington’s Bob Ajisafe led him a dance at a charity dinner event, prodding him over for an embarrassing count. Derby’s Ovill McKenzie levelled him for real and it was enough to bring about a re-jig. Former amateur coaches Mick McAllister and Mark Quinn were drafted in to correct and repair and “Bomber” improved. He has since outclassed McKenzie in a rematch, pushed the world-rated Cefn Fforest man Nathan Cleverly to the wire and wiped the floor with Norfolk’s Danny McIntosh.
While Bellew, 17-1 (11), swings bags of cement, Miranda, 35-7 (30), strikes with a mell hammer. Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine the 31-year-old visitor cracking Bellew (29) any harder than did McKenzie. In a fight that could be anything, it seems likely that Bellew will box and move rather than stand and trade. In doing so, the British champion can sweep a wild one on the cards. Miranda will press with as much effort as he has left but will require a Hail Mary shot of epic proportions in order to win – and that can’t be discounted.
Bellew will emerge to the strains of a 1960s television theme song based upon a Liverpool sea shanty about a man named Johnny Todd who, folklore has it, crossed the ocean and lost his true love. Miranda, who made the return trip on a plane, could be facing a similar lament come Sunday morning.