Usyk vs Bellew: Big Fight Preview
This Saturday in Manchester, Tony Bellew makes what will almost certainly be his last ring walk when he attempts what many are calling mission impossible. The unbeaten and formidable unified world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk stands in the way of a fairy-tale ending to Bellew’s career.
Usyk, 31, as his own agenda, he wanted this fight with Bellew at heavyweight and is targeting a fight with Anthony Joshua sometime in 2019. But to make those plans a realistic option Usyk has to get past Bellew and has David Haye found out that might not be as easy as the odds are suggesting. While a win of any description is needed, Usyk needs to do it in style as he moves forward to the next stage of his career.
Bellew, 35, seems to have made a career out of proving people wrong, and that includes me. Two failed attempts at the world light heavyweight title seem to show that Bellew wasn’t quite good enough to lift a world title. When he moved up to cruiserweight following the loss to Adonis Stevenson in 2013, I had serious doubts he would even match his domestic light heavyweight achievements. But on an emotional night at his beloved Goodison Park in 2016, Bellew finally achieved his dream by stopping Ilunga Makabu in 3 rounds to capture the WBC cruiserweight title.
A successful defence was followed by the two pension fights with David Haye. Bellew surprised the majority by beating Haye twice, the rematch removed any doubt lingering from the first fight. Bellew was clinical in dismantling Haye so quickly, Haye was a faded version of the fighter he once was, but Bellew deserves his due for whatever version of Haye he beat.
Usyk in winning the Ali Trophy in the opening season of the World Boxing Super Series, not only unified the world cruiserweight titles but he announced himself as a potential superstar such was his dominance in the final against Murat Gassiev. The final between the two top seeds in the tournament was supposed to be a 50/50 fight, but it was anything but. Usyk cruised to victory, and then called out Bellew, the Liverpool fighter heard and answered the call.
THE ODDS: Courtesy of @SkyBet
Oleksandr Usyk 1/8
Tony Bellew 4/1
Not for the first time in his career, Bellew finds himself an outsider and a pretty big one at that. Usyk is 1/8 to win and 4/5 to get an inside the distance win. If you fancy Bellew to upset the odds again you can get 4/1, and 6/1 if you think Bellew will stop his man, and a very long 12/1 for a points win.
Be it boxing or MMA there is always that doubt despite what you have achieved before. Questions are always asked about who you have fought and who you are yet to fight, fighters always seem to have to keep proving themselves. Bellew especially is one such fighter, maybe because of his outspoken persona, he never seems to get the credit he deserves, a win over the former Olympic champion will surely silence even the harshest of his critics.
But there is still that doubt about Usyk despite his impeccable credentials, did the win over Gassiev flatter him, was his close call against Mairis Briedis in the semi-finals a better indication of his skills. Usyk got the majority decision, but it was a bitterly hard-fought affair and could have gone either way.
The bookies are rarely wrong and they truly reflect the size of the task ahead for Bellew. Usyk is heavily favoured to sign off his cruiserweight career with an emphatic win. But does Bellew see something we don’t, to his credit he accepted the challenge when there were probably more lucrative options available at heavyweight.
Bellew has nothing to lose and knows that this in all probability this will be his last fight, a confident man is often the hardest to beat, Bellew certainly doesn’t lack for self-belief and that can carry you a long way. Bellew knows he has to drag Usyk into a street fight, non-stop controlled aggression, if this turns into a battle of skills, there will only be one winner.
But Usyk showed in the Briedis fight he can gut it out if needed, and I expect him to have an answer to everything Bellew will throw at him. It might be a closer fight than many expect, especially in the early rounds. But Usyk will establish control before the halfway mark, and while a late stoppage can’t be ruled out, but I think Usyk will get the win by a wide margin on the judges scorecards.