Tony Bellew’s trip to Kenya to witness Zarika Fatuma retain her WBC super-bantamweight title on Saturday night was a successful voyage as the SportPesa sponsored star dazzled in her unanimous decision win against old nemesis, Catherine Phiri.
The Liverpool superstar, a SportPesa global ambassador, knows all there is to know about performing on the highest stage competing for boxing’s most illustrious prizes, and his assessment of Fatuma after being present for her latest victory was laced in a complimentary tone.
“I’m so proud of Zarika,” revealed Bellew exclusively to SportPesa in the immediate aftermath of her one-sided win. “Zarika done everything that was asked of her by her coaches and she fought to a plan throughout without ever coming away from it.
She’s had a hard camp in Liverpool away from everyone and I know hard it can be when you’re training away from everyone that’s close to you, but these are the sacrifices that you have to make if you want to be the very best and Zarika is very much on her way to being that as she impresses me greatly every single time I watch her. That’s one of the happiest I’ve been at a boxing show. Zarika was a pleasure to watch.”
Zarika’s dominant win over her Zambian rival was a repeat result of what occurred back in December 2017. Then, Zarika was forced to dig in to stay one step ahead of her opponent, but the lessons learnt from that fight, and the hours spent in Liverpool’s famous Rotunda gym, appear to have paid off as she was flawless from first bell to last. Riding high in the world rankings thanks to a successful third defence of her world crown, Bellew insists that there is so much more to come from his SportPesa colleague.
“The improvements I’ve seen in Zarika in such a short time are unbelievable. She is really giving this everything she has and that’s the way it should be. Zarika fought Phiri a couple of years ago back in 2017 and although she won, she made hard work of it. She’s sat down, looked at that performance and decided to work so much harder so she can make the fight that little bit easier. She wants to be the very best she can be and to see her getting all the rewards for the work she has put in gave me so much satisfaction.
Bellew added, “This is only the beginning for Zarika and I think there’s so much more to come from her. She’s responding so well to everything Joe McNally and Declan O’Rourke, her coaches, are teaching her and other fighters, and I think she’s going to get better and better. The plan now is to make a unification match for her, so she can show everyone that she’s the best super-bantamweight in the world. I already believe she is, but I’m dying to watch her prove it.”