Liverpool’s Tony Bellew scored a count-out victory over BJ Flores in the third round to defend his WBC World Cruiserweight Championship at the Echo Arena, in a brief but effective display.
Bellew, 33, put Flores down three times in the second round as he looked to end the fight early and maintain his unbeaten record at the cruiserweight level.
The American challenger seemed rattled by a low blow by ‘Bomber’ Bellew in round two, and while Flores benefited from the lack of a three knockdown technical knockout rule he was unable to last much longer.
In the third round, Bellew landed a stunning left hook to the Arizona fighter’s chin that sent him to the floor for a fourth and final time. Unable to beat the referee’s count, Flores stayed on the canvas, stopped for the first time in his career.
After the fight, Bellew immediately climbed out of the ring and charged at David Haye, who was working ringside for Sky Sports. The Scouse champion continued his war of words with Londoner Haye in front of the crowd and TV audience, calling for a fight to settle their scores.
Bellew taunted the former world heavyweight champion Haye, saying: “I don’t fear you, I don’t care. I smashed your buddy and I will smash you the exact same way. Brother, I’m the biggest payday you’ve got right now. Let’s do it soon.”
After a night of great boxing action on the undercard, Bellew finally stepped into the ring with Flores, 37, to put an end to their own long-running feud. The opening exchanges were cagey but that was not to last.
Early in the second round, Flores found himself winded after a clear low punch below the belt by Bellew. Without a stoppage or warning from the referee, Bellew chased after Flores, knocking him down to the canvas for the first time.
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With the crowd expectant of a quick win, Bellew put Flores down for the second time and watched as the three-time world championship contender used the ropes to aid the climb to his feet.
As the second round came to a close, Flores found himself battling against the referee’s count for the third time and was able to once again get back up, but the damage had been done.
After a break between rounds, Bellew landed the same hook in the same round that won him the world title back in May to successfully defend his title for the first time.
Earlier there were also wins for Merseyside boxers Ged Carroll, Sean Dodd, Rocky Fielding and Craig Glover.
The night belonged to Bellew, however. After clinching the title in his dream victory at Goodison Park in May, thoughts will now turn to his next defence – and Haye looks certain to meet the Wavertree boxer at some stage.