Tony Bellew marked his cruiserweight debut with a 12th round-stoppage win over Valery Brudov after surviving a seventh round scare in Liverpool on Saturday night.
The Liverpudlian stepped up in weight after losing to light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson and the Brit wasted no time making his statement, scoring three knockdowns en-route to victory.
Bellew started well, landing clean shots and looking sharp with the extra 16lbs added to his body. Brudov looked in trouble early on and struggled to land anything as he stalked Bellew around the ring.
The first knockdown came in the second round when Bellew landed a flush one-two. Brudov recovered and tried to land punches of his own but Bellew was in control as they approached the middle rounds.
Bellew, 31, knocked Brudov down for a second time with a right hand and it looked like the fight was over. However, the durable 37-year-old rose and the bell sounded as 'The Bomber' went in for the kill.
Brudov, who had won 41 of his 45 contests coming into the bout, gave Bellew a scare when he caught the 31-year-old with a right hand in the 7th. The crowd were in panic mode while the Russian pounded away but Bellew survived with his legs unsteady as he walked back to his corner.
In an entertaining affair, Bellew (21-2-1) made sure the fight wouldn't go to the judges when he put his opponent down for the third time with a left hook. Brudov couldn't get up and the fight was over.
After his last defeat against Stevenson, Bellew said he would retire if he lost, but the Brit now looks set for one more fight before a world title shot.
"I'm happy," Bellew told Sky Sports. "It's a six out of 10 - I won that's the main thing."
"I switched off. I said this was going to be a tough fight and believe me, at this weight I can punch. I took him clean off his feet a couple of times, especially the second. I thought 'that is good night now', and he got up. I thought 'welcome to the cruiserweight division."
Eddie Hearn, Bellew's promoter, said his fighter will have another fight in the summer before maybe facing Marco Huck later in the year which could be his last shot at glory.
"I'm 31. I'm not getting any younger," he added. "I'm in this sport to provide a living for my three boys and to become a world champion."
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