- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) - The last time British boxer Tony Bellew fought for a world title, it was in a Hollywood movie.

Bellew played the role of world champion “Pretty” Ricky Conlan in “Creed,” the seventh installment in the “Rocky” series. Bellow, a tough-talking fighter from northern England, was contacted for the part by Warner Bros. in August 2014.

“I thought it was a hoax at first,” Bellew recalled of the day he took the call, soon after watching his beloved soccer team Everton lose heavily in the Premier League. “I just said, ‘Don’t wind me up.’ Everton had just been tanked 6-3 by Chelsea and I wasn’t in the mood.”

A few weeks later, he was signing a contract to appear in the movie and taking what would become a nine-month break from his pro boxing career. The climax to the movie, released in late 2015, saw Bellew’s character beat Adonis Johnson - the son of Apollo Creed - in a world light-heavyweight fight at Everton’s Goodison Park stadium.

He’ll be returning to that venue this month - this time to fight for real.

Bellew will take on Ilunga Makabu on May 29 for the vacant WBC world cruiserweight title. Fighting in front of 25,000 fans at his local stadium on his son’s birthday to become world champion for the first time is the ultimate scenario for Bellew, who says he is on good terms with Everton’s American goalkeeper, Tim Howard, and many members of the squad.

“I’ve had a season ticket on that Gwladys Street (End) since I was a young boy. I’ve been coming here my whole life,” Bellew told The Associated Press in the bowels of Goodison Park. “Walking out and hearing it loud, kicking, is going to be the best feeling ever.”

Bellew is well-known in British boxing circles as a former British and Commonwealth champion, but appearing in “Creed” has seen his profile soar globally. He talked about the pinch-yourself moments he had while spending time with Sylvester Stallone and director Ryan Coogler on set.

“Rambo” was one of Bellew’s favorite movies growing up, making working with Stallone even more exciting.

“Imagine telling me, as a kid who grew up on Rocky and those movies, that you’re going to be part of it, among them bad guys,” he said. “They are going to say Ivan Drago, Mr. T, Thunderlips. They are going to say Apollo Creed and now they are going to say Tony Bellew.”

Bellew said acting came easy to him. He just played himself.

“I feel like I could do it again. I definitely could play James Bond,” he said, laughing. “I’m happy to put it out there and get another knock on the door.”

For the moment, Bellew’s acting days are behind him and he’s now focused on winning a world title in his third attempt. He lost an all-British WBO light-heavyweight title fight to Nathan Cleverly in 2011, and to Adonis Stevenson of Canada for the WBC belt in Quebec in 2013.

Bellew stepped up to cruiserweight after losing to Stevenson, and has won six straight fights. His most recent win was against Poland’s Mateusz Masternak in December, earning him the European cruiserweight title and moving his record to 26-2-1 (16 KOs).

Bellew’s trainer, Dave Coldwell, said the fighter is more at home in the heavier cruiserweight division.

“Coming down to light-heavyweight was killing him. He had nothing left in the ring,” Coldwell told the AP. “At cruiserweight, he’s a lot happier, more comfortable, stronger, and can take a shot better.”

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