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Fulham boxer Zak Chelli keen to bounce back after controversial draw

Super-middleweight boxer Zak Chelli is eager to get back on the path to a title after receiving a controversial draw back in August.

Chelli (7-1-1, 3 KO’s), 22, was born in Hammersmith, the birthplace of super-middleweight legends Joe Calzaghe and George Groves, and trained in amateur clubs across London before turning pro in 2017.

In August, Chelli put on an impressive performance against the English middleweight champion Jack Cullen, 26, at Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Fight Camp, and it is widely held that he was unlucky to come away with a draw.

Chelli said: “I was training months for that fight, literally 11 months since my last fight. I was just devastated.

“What hurt me the most was after I saw his interview and he said that he thought he won, and I just went crazy. I thought he knew he lost but no, he thought he won! That made me angry.

“I think Eddie Hearn had a plan for him, to build him up. But I ruined it.”

Despite the controversial result, Cullen is scheduled to fight Jamie Cox, 34, who held a Commonwealth title between 2011-2012, on 14 November, a development which has further disappointed Chelli.

He said: “Now he’s still managed to go through and fight again so… It’s all politics in boxing, it’s a business you know?”

Chelli, who previously held the Southern Area title, however, is not interested in a rematch with Cullen as a top priority.

He would rather fight for a title as soon as possible and is determined to not let the draw negatively affect his career.

He added: “Personally, I believe I beat him and the public believe I beat him. They knew I won. The people know I won and that’s what matters.

“I would love to fight someone better or for a title. But if there’s a title on the line against him I’ll take it because I know it’d be an easy title to win.

“There’s so many people in the division now, it’s getting interesting. Honestly, I’d fight anyone that’s in the top ten of British boxing. I was hoping to get the English title this year, but coronavirus came along, so I’d fight anyone as long as it’s for a title.”

The next step on Chelli’s road to a title will come on 10 November, when he will compete in Boxxer’s four-man super-middleweight knockout competition, UB7.

He is the bookies favourite for the tournament, which will be held in the BT Sport studio in Stratford.

He was given the call to compete in the event after his draw with Cullen, a silver-lining to that fight, which increased his profile in the boxing world.

The knockout style of the tournament is novel to modern-day professional boxing, and it will feature two semi-finals and a final, each three rounds.

Chelli explained: “It reminds me of my amateur days. Sometimes in the amateurs during tournaments we would have to fight twice on the same night, and I was actually pretty good at that. Every time I did that I ended up winning. So I’m excited for it. I can bring back my amateur days and put all the 10 rounds of focus into three rounds.”

Chelli will compete against Ben Ridings (3-0-0), 22, Diego Costa (7-0-0, 5 KO’s), 34, and Charlie Schofield (15-1-0, 1 KO), 27, and although the match-ups are not yet announced, he is confident.

“I’m looking at all three opponents and whoever they pick I’ll be happy. I’m looking forward to fighting all of them.

“I’ve seen these tournaments and there’s usually a lot of knockouts because everyone gives everything within three minutes and they usually let hands down, they let mistakes go through and that’s how people get dropped. So that’s what I’ll be looking for­ – a few mistakes and to drop some people.

“Anything could happen in three rounds.”

The tournament will take place without an audience because of Covid-19 restrictions, but this does not bother Chelli, who already fought without an audience in August.

He added: “Of course, after the fight you usually get the crowd cheering you on and that wasn’t there. But I know people are watching at home so it’s basically the same.

“I’m looking forward to putting on a good knockout show.”

Included on the undercard is Shepherd’s Bush boxer Mikael Lawal.

UB7 will be broadcast live on BT Sport and ITV 4 on Tuesday 10 November.

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