COMMONWEALTH featherweight champion Jason Cunningham is ready to drag the highly touted Reece Bellotti into a dog fight when the pair clash on the latest edition of Matchroom Boxing’s NXT GEN Series at the York Hall on Friday.
Bellotti has cut a path of destruction through the pro ranks since he turned over, but Cunningham will be a stiff test for the Watford man. Cunningham insists this fight will top off a long road back to the main stage, after his 2015 defeat to Kal Yafai, and he is refusing to let the opportunity slip through his fingers.
The 28-year-old from Doncaster has compiled a 23-3 record, with 6 KO’s, and picked up the title with a win against Ben Jones back in April as the road fighter, so he assures us that he is anything but fazed at the prospect of travelling to Bellotti’s backyard to defend his belt.
“It will be a hard fight with Bellotti, but I’ve been in these situations before and he hasn’t, so the pressure is on him. He’s got a big reputation from the amateurs, winning two titles, but people have forgotten that I’m a former ABA champion as well, so it’s not like I haven’t got a pedigree like him.
“I’ve been in fights where I’ve had my back up against the wall and I’m still here, so my boxes have been ticked. It’s down to him to show if he can tick them too. I deserve an opportunity like this and it’s taken a lot of graft to get back to this stage and I’ve got a chance to show everyone what I’m about.
“Last time wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, as I came up against a world class fighter in Yafai back in October 2015. I remember everyone raved about him back then, like they are at the moment with Bellotti, but Kal has proven he is world class. Bellotti isn’t the same calibre as him, so let’s see how he does when he’s in the middle of a dog fight.”
Cunningham has fluctuated between weights throughout his career, winning English and Commonwealth titles at bantam, before he stepped down to super-fly, a mistake in his opinion, to challenge Yafai.
He now believes that he has settled into his perfect weight in a tough featherweight division, a decision that turned out to be the correct one on his last visit to York Hall, where he became the Commonwealth champion, albeit by a tight split decision over Jones.
“The Iceman” adds that his ability to compete at this level is down to the road he has followed through the small hall circuit and believes that this will give him an extra edge against Bellotti, who has had it all his own way since his debut in 2015.
“Featherweight is my weight. I needed to move up because I’m around 5”8, 5”9 so I was far too big to be fighting down at super-flyweight. I was willing to do it and take the risk for high reward, but it didn’t pay off and that’s how it goes.
“I skipped super-bantam altogether and tried it out when I beat Jamie Speight over 10 rounds and stepped in on four weeks notice to face Jones, although I thought I would get robbed, which worryingly is happening more and more at the minute.
“Boxing News had me winning nine rounds to three, which is about how I had it, but they were taking forever with the scores. My manager and trainer Stefy Bull kept reassuring me that I’d got it, but then when I heard split decision, I couldn’t believe it. Thankfully it went in my favour.
“I’m going to enjoy Friday because I’ve done this the hard way and gone under the radar on the small hall circuit throughout my career. Plenty just get it handed to them, but I’ve worked for this and you can always tell the guys that have done it like me, as they have an extra edge to them. There is no way I’m losing that belt to Bellotti.”