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Interview with O'Neil "Give 'Em Hell" Bell

Dec 17, 2003  By Ed Ludwig
On this weeks edition of ESPN 2’s Friday Night Fights, top Cruiserweight contender O’Neil Bell (21-1-1 20 KO’s) headlines against former two time Light Heavyweight title challenger Derrick “Royalty” Harmon (23-4 11 KO’s) in what can be perceived as a good step up in competition for Bell, the current NABF and USBA champion. Harmon brings a wealth of experience against top contenders and his southpaw style to the Cruiserweight ranks. Bell is currently the number one ranked contender to Wayne Braithwaite’s WBC title and he is eagerly awaiting his shot and looking forward to settling a bitter rivalry with Braithwaite. I would like to thank O’Neil for taking the time to speak with Doghouse Boxing.

Ed Ludwig: I’ll start off by asking how training camp has gone and how do you feel?

O’Neil Bell: It has gone very well and this being the last week of camp I am putting in about an hour and a half in the gym. I’m pretty much tuning up right now and winding down and sharp shooting. Feeling good and ready to go.

What kind of fight are you expecting from Derrick Harmon?

After watching the tapes of him fighting Michalzewski, Griffin and Johnson I am expecting a boxing match and not so much a slugfest like my last fight. I expect to execute my boxing skill versus slugging and going toe to toe. Harmon is an excellent boxer, he is well seasoned but moving up in weight and challenging me, he has signed a death warrant. I really don’t understand why he decided to move up and challenge me for the NABF title.

I was wondering about the rematch that was ordered between you and Kelvin Davis and what is happening with that?

Well, actually I though about it, my team and I sat down and we didn’t think that it would be the best thing to do. I basically proved myself and the rematch was ordered because they thought I hit him while he was down. After watching the tape over and over I could not see that and I didn’t want to go ahead and prove myself again so I declined to take it and I dropped in the ratings but I am still the champion regardless.

There have been reports of Vassiliy Jirov possibly meeting Kelvin Davis for the vacant IBF title or Jirov against Johnny Neslon for the WBO title. Have you heard anything about that?

If you know boxing it’s all political so basically it’s who you know and money talks so who really knows. They are going to do what they want to do anyway. I still consider myself the champ. I beat the man fair and square. If Jirov wants to fight Davis then so be it but I know when I get the WBC title after I take care of Derrick Harmon I will beat all those other contenders.

Was your fight with Kelvin Davis earlier this year been the toughest for you thus far in your career?

Toughest? No, I made that fight tough. I should have boxed the man and kept him on the outside. After the cut I was a bit discombobulated but I gathered myself and I had to beat him at his best, beat him on the inside.

You are a staple of the ESPN Friday Night Fights telecast as you have appeared on the program many times. I was wondering if you have heard anything about the cut backs that were announced by the network recently.

I really don’t know the inside stuff and the views on that. I can just speak for me and some of the boxers I know. It is detrimental to the boxers for the young up and comers to be able to showcase their talent. These guys should have the right to make some type of money before they get to the title and being that ESPN is cutting the budget it is the hardest step we have to take. We need to keep fighting to be recognized and hopefully land a deal with one of these big networks, HBO, Showtime or whom ever it may be.

As for your career, you have been averaging about four fights a year and the upcoming bout with Harmon will be your second in 2003. Are you hoping to be in the ring more in 2004?

The cut I got against Davis pretty well set me back six weeks or more so I had to give it time to heal. There were talks of other fights but nothing ever materialized plus I had an injury to my hand so the rest helped me. I was eager to fight but I had to deal with the circumstances. I was fortunate to have four fights last year and fighting only twice this year won’t kill me.

In an interview I conducted with Wayne Braithwaite a couple of months ago I asked him about the animosity between the two of you and this is what he had to say, “I don’t like the guy and I never have. We never met in person but he talks a lot and runs off a bit much with his mouth. One day we will fight and I look forward to it. Bell is a good fighter but nothing special. For me this is personal and I can’t wait to fight him”.

Well I’m glad he is taking it personal. I don’t know how all this talk started but maybe he’s just trying to promote himself, he’s speaking out of context. As everybody knows, the names Braithwaite has called me doesn’t even add up. If you look at my record in comparison to his he’s not even worthy. The opponents I have fought I have totally dominated which he couldn’t stand a chance of doing. He’s the one who brought up this aggression towards me. I have nothing to say to him except in the year 2004 this will all be settled. Braithwaite is nervous and insecure. He should be going after guys like Toney and Jirov as he is a world champion. I’m constantly on his mind and when we meet in the ring it will be nothing but hand to hand combat. He is using me and the trash talking to promote him self. I am in no mood to play any games with these chumps especially him.

Are you happy with the weight limit being moved up in your division?

It’s a good thing and it will bring so much more excitement now. The smaller Heavyweights who fight around 210 to 215 can drop down and bring more excitement to the game. Maybe Roy will want to do something like that.

Can you throw out a few names of guys you would like to challenge in the future?

I would love to fight Roy Jones Jr. I think a fight between us would be phenomenal. I feel I can test him and let the world know there is a Cruiserweight star out there. I would like to fight all the champions and unify the titles. I won’t duck and dodge anyone and fight meaningless fights. So many guys are taking bullshit fights with opponents who should not be in the same ring with them. That is an injustice and people are tired of seeing this stuff.

Depending on how things play out in the future, would you consider traveling to England or France to challenge Johnny Nelson or Jean-Marc Mormeck for their titles?

Oh man, like I said, I duck and dodge no one. I had two opportunities to fight Mormeck. About a year and a half ago I signed a letter of intent to fight him and he declined. From what I have heard he is an ex football player so he has to be in excellent physical shape but he wanted no part of me.

Many fighters I have interviewed in the past said they stay far away from the sport as possible when not in training for a fight. Are you a fan of the sport being an active participant?

I love the sport. I consider myself a throwback. I have fights on tape from early as 1901 with Ezzard Charles, Harry Greb, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano etc. I am a big boxing fan and I try to learn as much as I can. I’m a big fan of the classics.

Any comments for your fans?

Keep a close eye on me. I plan to rule the Cruiserweight division for a long time. 2004 for is the start of many great things for me. Thanks to my fans for their support.

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