Evertonian, Tony ‘Bomber’ Bellew, finally achieved his dream of becoming a world champion after stopping Ilunga Makabu in the third round of their clash at Goodison Park to win the vacant WBC Cruiserweight title.
On a night of high drama, the Creed movie star produced a real-life Rocky performance as he recovered from a first round knockdown to capture a world title at the third attempt with a sensational stoppage of the fighter from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There were worrying scenes as Makabu remained on the canvas for some time receiving treatment by ringside doctors after the referee’s stoppage, and Bellew’s camp dampened down their celebrations as concerns grew for the stricken boxer.
When he finally got to his feet, the pair embraced with Bellew in tears as hall of fame MC, Michael Buffer, declared the Wavertree man the new world champion and sent the crowd into raptures.
Underdog Bellew had entered the ring to Z-Cars, the anthem of his beloved Everton FC, and the atmosphere was electric with more than 15,000 fans willing him to victory on an unforgettable evening of action at the home of Everton Football Club.
Both fighters stalked each other in an understandably cautious opening, with little action of note and plenty of respect on show.
However, that cagey opener sprung into life when a ferocious left hand by Makabu put Bellew on the canvas, but he rose early to take a count of eight and the bell saved him from a potential first round disaster.
The Rotunda Gym man had cleared his head by the middle of the second round and he began to find his range against the dangerous Makabu, although his opponent showed why he was the bookies’ favourite with a few sharp right hands which only narrowly missed the target.
The early exchanges in the third round saw both fighters enjoy success, but the contest ended suddenly when a sustained two-handed attack from Bellew left Makabu trapped against the ropes and unable to defend himself before a punishing left hook to the head saw him slump to the canvas.
The referee stopped the fight and sent the stadium into delirium as the Wavertree man was confirmed the winner.
The 33-year-old told Sky Sports after the contest: “I got knocked down but that’s what I do. I told you I am Everton – that’s why I got up.
“Nothing was going to stop me tonight. I cried in the dressing room two hours ago when I got here. I achieved the dream tonight, I am world champion, that’s what I am.”
All the local fighters triumphed on a packed undercard, with notable wins for super-middleweight prospect Callum Smith, who stopped Argentine Cesar Hernan Reynoso in six rounds, and heavyweight David Price who got back to winning ways with a comfortable second round knockout of Vaclaj Pejsar.
There were also victories for Merseyside boxers Paul Smith, Sean Dodd, Stephen Smith and Tom Farrell.