Zak Chelli (left) in action. Picture: Zak Chelli official
January 22, 2024
Fulham boxer Zak Chelli won the British and Commonwealth super middleweight title at the Echo Arena in Liverpool this Saturday (20 January).
He was up against his fierce rival, Jack Cullen, who had had drawn with back in 2020 although many thought Chelli had edged it. The previous fight was held in Eddie Hearn’s garden during Covid but the rematch was hosted in a packed venue with the Mikaela Mayer and Natasha Jonas bout on the same card.
Cullen, as the taller fighter, sought to keep his distance in the early rounds, and made scoring punches using this tactic. However, by round three he opted to come in closer, but Chelli’s mobility frustrated him and his jab wasn’t as effective. Chelli on the other hand was now making contact and then clinching after a hit to avoid a counter punch. This resulted in a cut to Cullen’s eye, but he remained the fighter most often on the front foot. However, as the fight went into its second half a couple of good shots from Chelli stunned Cullen although neither fighter was achieving any dominance in a scrappy encounter.
Visibly tiring, the Fulham man, kept his distance and Cullen was unable to sting him with any meaningful punches. An increasingly desperate champion, aware he was probably behind on the judges’ scorecards, was not able to put together any meaningful combinations.
The result after 12 rounds was a deserved unanimous decision for Chelli, with two of three judges making him ahead by several rounds.
This is the career pinnacle so far for the 26-year-old former school teacher of mixed Tunisian and Italian heritage who attended Henry Compton school. He now trains at the State Of Mind Fitness gym in Fulham Reach with head coach Barry O'Connell who previously worked with George Groves, another boxing great from the area. Groves went on to be a world champion in the same division after starting out in the world of kickboxing at a local club in Fulham. Chelli previously had been trained by his father Zakaria who had also been a boxer and remains involved in his son’s development.
Chelli said before the fight, “It is an honour to be fighting for the British and Commonwealth titles and something all boxers in the UK dream about when they are kids. I am now living that reality and want to do myself, my family and local community proud in the ring.”
The victory looks set to catapult this local fighter onto the international stage in a division dominated by Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez.
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