A few weeks back, at the New York press conference for the “Heavyweight Heat” pay-per-view boxing show from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, on Friday, August 26, IBF cruiserweight champion O’Neil “Supernova” Bell of Atlanta, via Montego Bay, Jamaica, sat idly by as headliners Shannon Briggs and Ray Mercer verbally (and almost physically) tore into each other.
With a look of bemused resignation on his face, it was apparent that Bell could not conceive why two grown men who make their living with their fists would even consider fighting for free. Bell does not just see himself as a fighter; he views himself as a businessman who is much too sensible to involve himself in such shenanigans.
“I just take it in stride,” said the always smiling 30-year-old Bell, who won the vacant title from Dale Brown on May 20 at the same venue in which he will be fighting South African strongman Sebastiaan Rothmann, 18-3-2 (12 KOs) on Friday. “Everyone has their own way of doing things. That’s just not my style.”
Bell’s style is to fight hard and fight often. Since turning pro in February 1998, he has amassed an impressive record of 24-1-1 (22 KOs) against some pretty formidable competition.
Among others, he has beaten such notables as Ezra Sellers (KO 2), Derrick Harmon (TKO 8), Kelvin Davis (TKO 11), and Arthur Williams (TKO 9 and TKO 11).
He was stopped in four rounds in his second fight, by the more experienced Mohamed Benguesmia in South Carolina, and was involved in a technical draw with Ernest Mateen when an accidental headbutt resulted in their April 2002 bout being called in the third round.
“I am determined to be remembered as an all-time great,” said Bell. “I look at fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson, Jack Johnson, Joe Louis and Bernard Hopkins and want to be like them. They were always in great shape and had respect for themselves and the sport. I don’t live a wild life. If I have a wild side, I save it for the ring.”
That has not always been the case. Bell admits that in his youth he had a bit of a wild streak, which resulted in him spending time in a juvenile facility for assault. Released after three months, he promised himself he was never going back.
“I said never again and have been a model citizen ever since,” said Bell, who is promoted by the Florida-based Warrior Promotions.
He has also become a helluva fighter. It all began for him when he moved to Atlanta to work for UPS. He began working out at a local gym, the Dorville Boxing Club, and now trains at the Atlanta Art of Boxing facility alongside such local legends as Evander Holyfield and Vernon Forrest.
He recently gave up his original nickname of “Give ‘Em Hell” for “Supernova.” Why fix what’s not broken, one might wonder?
“A supernova brings about great change,” said Bell. “It implodes, explodes and goes to new galaxies and planets. I want to create a new environment in my life and in boxing, especially in the cruiserweight division. I want to bring excitement where there hasn’t been any before.”
Bell wants to create that excitement not just for his own personal wealth and fistic legacy, but more importantly for the future of his beloved six-year-old daughter Sheyenne, whom he adores. “She means the world to me and is my greatest motivation,” said Bell. “I don’t want her to ever think or say her daddy wasn’t there for her. Keeping my title will benefit both of us in many ways.”
Some critics believe that Bell keeping the title might not be as easy as he makes it sound. As evidence they point to the particularly tough fight he had with Brown. Even though Bell won a unanimous decision, some observers thought Brown got robbed. Bell was not one of them and he makes no apologies.
“Brown was a much better fighter than I anticipated,” he conceded. “I got some great accolades for the fight, but none from the commentators. I felt that Brown put on his track shoes and I won fairly.”
The fighter Bell would like most to compete against is WBA/WBC champion Jean-Marc Mormeck of France. He was impressed by the way Mormeck handled the favored Wayne Braithwaite and would love to have the chance to handle Mormeck the same way.
“I’m just waiting for the day,” said Bell. “That’s the perfect fight for me. Mormeck will take lots of punishment.”
When told that Mormeck seemed unflappable, even against as formidable an opponent as Braithwaite, Bell was not the least bit ruffled. “I’ll rough him up and wake him up,” he proclaimed. “But I’m not looking past Rothmann. I’m too smart to make a mistake like that.”
From a business standpoint, Team Bell describes a somewhat unconventional business model. According to manager Glenn Augustus, Bell “is the CEO of the corporation and the rest of the team are just wheels on the car. The infrastructure of our business is different than most. No one takes all the glory or all the money. As the manager, I’m not just the guy with a cigar. I work for the CEO and we’re looking to branch out into other interests.”
In order to do that, Bell must keep winning. He seems to have what it takes to be successful, but one has to wonder if he can bring much-deserved glory to the often maligned and moribund division.
“I can only try,” said Bell. “We’ll plan the next step just as soon as I beat Sebastiaan Rothmann on August 26.”
The card, which will also feature heavyweight contender Jameel McCline and undefeated junior welterweight bomber Juan “Iron Twins” Urango of Miami, via Colombia, will be distributed and shown live by Showtime Pay-Per-View. It is being co-promoted by Warrior Promotions and Cedric Kushner Promotions.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV