Tony Bellew: This Is It
Boxing history is littered with tales of boxers retiring and then at some point making their almost inevitable return to the ring. Some miss the limelight, the attention, some miss the competition, many more return because they have to because of financial problems. However, in the case of Tony Bellew I really do think that this is it. The retirement he indicated pre-fight was confirmed after his brave but ultimately losing effort against the classy Oleksandr Usyk in Manchester last week.
The fight always had the look of a passing of the torch type of affair, the old guard ushered out at the expense of the new kid on the block, an introduction to the masses of the next big thing. Bellew played his part admirably, even in the early stages of the gripping contest, looking as though he could upset the script and leave the sport on a sensational unbelievable high. But as Bellew started to fade, Usyk gradually took over before finishing the fight and ending the career of the Liverpool fighter.
Bellew, I am certain will not be tempted to try again, the things he was saying pre-fight, how the fight went, and what he has said post-fight has left me convinced there will be no change of heart.
Whenever a fighter starts talking retirement, the end is never far away, for Bellew it probably should have come after the Haye rematch. But he is better having one fight too many now, getting it out of his system, knowing he’s giving everything, rather than thinking he has something left in the tank.
How the Usyk fight played out will have convinced him it’s over. The good start was partly attributed to Usyk playing the waiting game, seeing what Bellew had to offer, probably knowing with the miles on the clock he had, he would at some point slow down. Usyk was boxing at a nice relaxed rhythm, while Bellew was working harder, a more forced pace. Bellew will have learned that at 35, he no longer has the gas tank to compete with the elite in the sport.
I was as equally concerned about the way he slumped to the floor in the 8th round and the post-fight interview he gave, both were worrying for different reasons. Bellew admits Haye hit him harder than the punch Usyk landed to finish the fight, punch resistance like Haye eventually had to concede, eventually erodes. I wish TV networks wouldn’t interview fighters after they have been knocked out, it often makes for uncomfortable viewing.
Bellew doesn’t need the money, the Haye fights have secured him and his family financially, and I get the impression he will not miss being centre stage, the limelight will not be a thing Bellew craves.
The hate Bellew gets from some is regrettable but sadly is commonplace in today’s social media-heavy world. But the haters need to understand Bellew would not have got the Haye fights if he had a less vocal persona, far more talented fighters than Bellew leave the sport with little or no money. Bellew understood today’s world of the need to market yourself, many may not like it, but few would argue it didn’t work for him.
There is little doubt that Bellew got the most he could out of the sport, winning his world title at his beloved Goodison Park a career highlight, despite the highs of the mega fights with Haye. As I said in my post-fight report after the Usyk fight, he leaves the sport with nothing more to give and nothing left to prove, Bellew truly is at the point of no return.