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Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Bellew-Chilemba victor gets title shot

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Light heavyweight contenders Tony Bellew and Isaac Chilemba will square off in a world title eliminator to determine the mandatory challenger for champion Chad Dawson, Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn announced Wednesday.

The fight is scheduled for March 30 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England, Bellew's hometown. It will headline a Sky Sports-televised card in the United Kingdom.

"I cannot wait for this show -- it's going to be a great night of boxing in Liverpool," Hearn said. "It's a crucial night for Tony, with a win securing a well-earned second world title shot, and he has great momentum coming into the fight after performing well in 2012. Isaac is a tough customer, though, and Tony will have to be at his best to get the win."

Bellew (19-1, 12 KOs), 30, is aiming for his second shot at a 175-pound world title. He has won three fights in a row since suffering his lone defeat, a debatable majority decision to Nathan Cleverly for a version of the light heavyweight world title in October 2011.

Since the loss, Bellew stopped Danny McIntosh in the fifth round of a British light heavyweight title defense, stopped onetime contender Edison Miranda in the ninth round and scored a near-shutout decision win against Roberto Feliciano Bolonti in November despite having to fight through a terrible cut.

"It's a massive night and a really tough opponent for the right to fight for the big one," Bellew said. "Isaac is a top-class opponent. He beat Miranda at late notice and has only one defeat on his record from five years ago, so he'll be well up for this and he's in good form.

"But I'm on the edge of a world title fight, and I've worked too hard to give it away now. It's a great card ... for the Liverpool fans, and I am sure they will turn out in force on March 30."

Since a draw with super middleweight contender Thomas Oosthuizen in November 2010, Chilemba (20-1-1, 9 KOs), 25, of South Africa, has won five bouts in a row. In his most notable victory in the stretch, Chilemba won a 10-round decision against Miranda on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" 11 months ago.

"We think that Isaac matches up well with Bellew and this is a tremendous opportunity for Isaac," promoter Lou DiBella said. "It's a title elimination bout, so you take the fight. You roll the dice, and if you have to go to England and fight in the other guy's hometown for the opportunity, you go to England and fight in the other guy's hometown. Isaac has been waiting for this opportunity.

"He's a top-tier 175-pounder, and so is Bellew. People saw Bellew's fight with Cleverly. It was a great fight. They saw what he did against Miranda. They saw what Isaac did against Miranda. It's gonna be a good fight."

Also on the card, Liverpool's Derry Mathews (32-8-1, 17 KOs) and Manchester's Anthony Crolla (25-4, 9 KOs) will meet for the vacant Commonwealth lightweight title. The fight is a rematch of an action-packed match from April, when Matthews scored a sixth-round knockout.