When Tim Bell entered the ring at the Ex-Services Club in Coffs Harbour, Australia on September 30th to challenge Justin Clements for his Australian light heavyweight title, he could have been forgiven for seeming a little distracted.
Photo © Werner Kalin
Forget the fact that Bell accepted the fight for no purse at all. Never mind that Bell had to hold a fundraiser to secure the funds to cover the cost of air flights for himself and his team. And don’t mention the fact that he wasn’t even supplied with a stool to sit down on between rounds.
For Bell, this fight represented so much more than a few minor inconveniences.
When Bell flew out from his hometown of Melbourne he had with him his best mate Jason Duell and a pocket full of dreams. When he left Bell had the Australian title in his possession but Duell wasn’t with him. Duell didn’t even make it to the fight.
After being diagnosed with a brain tumour three years ago Duell was advised not to fly, but the staunch 28-year-old insisted on accompanying Bell to Coffs Harbour to see his best mate achieve his dream of winning an Australian title. On arrival Duell was immediately hospitalized after suffering a brain haemorrhage.
Hardly the ideal circumstances for anyone approaching the biggest fight of their life.
“I couldn’t possibly lose that fight, knowing that Jason was waiting for me to come back with the belt,” Bell, 9-3-1 (9), told Melbourne newspaper the Herald-Sun last week.
“He knew the flight up could kill him but that’s what he decided to do and nothing was going to stop him. I look at Jason and think how lucky I was to have him as my best mate.”
With circumstances conspiring against him it’s amazing that Bell dominated Clements in the manner that he did.
Despite his immense talent, in the past Bell has shown an inability to maintain focus in the heat of battle. This habit of allowing himself to be distracted has previously hampered Bell’s career, but in June the 26-year-old displayed a newfound level of focus and determination when he blasted out previously unbeaten puncher Johnny Walker in four rounds.
This performance marked a turning point for Bell, who drew on this experience to put a one-sided beating on Clements for six rounds before the local boy’s corner threw in the towel to prevent their fighter from sustaining any further punishment.
“He was a bit sluggish and he didn’t fight to the best of his ability because of the circumstances, but he managed to keep focused and not let the sneaky little tricks go to his head or anything,” said Bell’s manager Dave Curran.
“He listened to the ref and focused on the ref only and got on with the job. And he stood up the whole time because we weren’t provided with a stool. As far as the fight goes he was a little bit down on performance and he can do better, but considering the circumstances it was probably better than what we expected.”
Immediately after the fight Bell left the arena to show his newly acquired hardware to his close friend who was lying sedated and near death in the local hospital. Unfortunately the car that was supposed to be waiting to take him to the hospital was nowhere to be found, so the ever resourceful Bell searched the carpark until he discovered a car with the keys still in the ignition.
“After the fight Tim got his gloves off but he still had his wraps on and he was gone,” explained Curran. “He was out in the carpark and was supposed to getting a lift to the hospital, but a friend of ours who was meant to leave a car there didn’t leave one. But Tim managed to find one that somebody had left the keys in kindly enough and he borrowed it. We don’t know who’s car it was so we would like to thank them.
“We took it back and we’d just like to say thanks online to the person who it belonged to. Tim put ten bucks worth of petrol in it and got it back there. We still don’t know who it was, but they were very kind.”
When Bell arrived at the hospital Duell was able to acknowledge his friend’s achievements and say his goodbyes. Jason Duell passed away at 1:10am on Saturday morning.
Not only was the win an emotional victory for Bell, but making the fight in the first place proved wrought with frustration and difficulties.
“When we got the fight I made a deal with Terry Baff [Clement’s trainer],” said Curran. “It seems that when they found out the fight was going to be in Coffs Harbour a few of the promoters here wanted it down here in Melbourne, which upset the applecart. Well, Terry Baff thought that I backdoored him, so he rang me up and called me every name under the sun. He ended up hanging up on me but it had nothing to do with me; it was all the other blokes down here.
“So what I did was I jumped on a plane and in a couple of hours I was up there. I went to Terry’s place and said ‘G’day mate, Dave Curran. You can’t hang up on me now.’ He went ‘Geez you got here quick.’ So we got the pen out, we got the contract out, I got it signed and we brought it home.”
While it’s not unusual for boxers to take short money for the opportunity to fight for a title with a victory ensuring larger paydays down the track, it’s virtually unheard of in this day and age for a boxer to fight for literally nothing.
“We fought for nothing,” revealed Curran. “They gave us the fight but they weren’t going to pay us. I said no problem mate we’ll fight you for nothing, we just want the Australian title. As we didn’t get a purse we weren’t really expecting a stool anyway.
“They paid for the accommodation but that was it. We had a fundraiser a couple of weeks earlier to raise the money to fly the team up there and all the expenses that go along with us being up there. We raised that money thanks to a few blokes. All the diehard supporters came to the turn and we managed to raise the money and 70-odd strong came to Coffs Harbour as well. All round it was a pretty good night, Terry Baff put on a good night.”
With the Australian light heavyweight title safely in his possession, the future looks bright for Bell. While Team Bell is still plotting their next move, Curran is hopeful that Bell can land a fight on the Blaster Promotions card headlined by Shannan Taylor versus Raymond Joval on November 27th at Festival Hall in Melbourne.
“We’re going to sit down and have a look at a few different options to work out where we go from here,” said Curran. “Maybe the Commonwealth trail, maybe the PABA trail. There’s a few options to look at but we hope to fight on the Tony Caradonna [Blaster Promotions] card down here in Melbourne in November when Shannan Taylor fights.
“I’d love to speak to Caradonna in the next few days about that now that we’ve got the Australian title and try to get Tim on there. I’m sure that he would be interested in putting the bums on seats down here because Tim is the biggest drawcard in Melbourne as it is and I think he’ll be a bit bigger now.”
Curran has all but ruled out a fight with current PABA titleholder and Geelong lad Paul Murdoch, who will vacate his regional belt to challenge WBA light heavyweight champion Fabrice Tiozzo on December 5th in France.
“Paul Murdoch has got a shot at the WBA world title now,” said Curran of the potential match-up. “Paul is also using Tim as one of his main sparring partners and he will be using Tim in the lead up to his WBA title fight, which I think is on the 5th of December in Paris. I would also like to thank Paul Murdoch for all his help in Tim’s preparation for the Australian title.”
Whichever path Team Bell choose to follow, it’s got to be easier than the route that took them to the Australian title.
“It’s been a long and tiring journey, let me tell you,” said Curran. “It’s been a long few months.”
***R.I.P. JASON DUELL***
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2005