Very much an underrated and, to a large extent unappreciated fighter, former cruiserweight champ O’Neil Bell was one heck of a tough, exciting and courageous warrior. Arguably the best cruiserweight in the world from early summer 2005 to the spring of 2007, Bell was giving us fans terrific action fights with the likes of Jean-Marc Mormeck (fight-one between these two simply having to be seen to fully appreciated; the war being truly exceptional), Kelvin Davies, Arthur Williams and others.
Tragically, the former WBA, WBC, IBF cruiserweight king was shot and killed during a robbery in Atlanta in November of 2015. Bell was aged just 40.
Bell, who retired from the ring in December of 2011 with a fine 27-4-1 (25) record, was born in Jamaica in December of 1974. Turning pro in 1998, Bell – known as both, “Give ‘Em Hell,” and “Supernova” – soon captured the NABF and USBA cruiserweight titles, before winning the vacant IBF crown with a 12-round points win over Dale Brown in 2005.
An exciting puncher, Bell added the WBC and WBA belts to his growing collection in January of 2006 when he scored a 10th round KO of Jean Marc Mormeck in a thrilling shootout. Mormeck avenged the loss in a rematch that took place 14 months later; out-pointing Bell in a fight that contested the WBC and WBA crowns (Bell was stripped of his IBF title, in April of 2006, for not facing his mandatory, Steve Cunningham).
Bell would feature in one more big fight, an IBF eliminator against Tomasz Adamek just over a year after the loss to Mormeck. Bell, not performing to his usual standards, was knocked down in the opening round and chose to quit at the conclusion of the 7th-round. Fighting just twice afterwards – picking up a 2nd-round loss at the hands of Richard Hall in 2011, and then, in December of that year, blasting out little-known Rico Cason – Bell spoke with this writer in the summer of 2011, mostly about his poor showing against Adamek:
“That loss was partly down to weight problems, making weight” Bell explained. “But I also had vertigo and back problems. My head was spinning in that fight. I had no balance and I was stumbling around the ring. I couldn’t see and I told everyone after the fight that my head hurt. People wanted to know what happened, because they’d never seen me quit in a fight before.”
Bell had wanted, in 2011, to launch a campaign at heavyweight. He never saw this to fruition but Bell’s achievements at cruiserweight more than made his name among fight fans.
Bell is one of this great sport’s great forgotten warriors.