Photo Credit: Andrew Couldridge
On Saturday 10th November 2018, Tony “The Bomber” Bellew will seek to accomplish what many commentators would describe as the near-impossible task of dethroning pound-for-pound king Oleksandr Usyk at the Manchester Arena.
A former cruiserweight world champion himself, Tony Bellew (30-2-1) will move back down to his natural weight division following back-to-back stoppage victories over David Haye, which lead to the Londoner’s retirement from the sport. As always, he is supremely confident that he will once again prove his doubters wrong and rise to the challenge that awaits him. Although Bellew concedes that the fight against Usyk is likely to be the most difficult of his career to date, he is certain that he will find a way to defeat the Ukrainian and “break his heart”. As if the incentive of this most likely being the final professional bout of his career was not enough, the fact that all cruiserweight titles are at stake, and with it the chance to write one’s name in boxing history, means that we can expect Tony Bellew to leave everything in the ring on Saturday night.
His opponent, however, is undoubtedly more skilled than any opponent to have ever fought The Bomber in the professional ranks. Oleksandr Usyk (15-0) has reigned as the undisputed cruiserweight world champion since July 2018, when he dismantled the previously-unbeaten Murat Gassiev with formidable class in the WBSS final to win the inaugural Muhammad Ali Trophy. In doing so, he became the first boxer in history to hold all four major world championships at cruiserweight. The fact that he gained such an accolade in just his fifteenth professional bout, which was also an all-time first in boxing, highlights the sheer skill of the Ukrainian. Despite having had far fewer professional fights than his British opponent, Usyk is certainly experienced in the game, winning gold medals in the European Championships, World Championships and Olympics as an amateur. “The Cat” will no doubt be looking to put on a show in order to enhance his growing reputation among both British fans and those around the world. In particular, if the rumours of Usyk’s desire to move up to heavyweight after his bout this weekend, to face none other than Anthony Joshua, are indeed true, then he will surely be seeking to put in a memorable performance and send a message to the unified world champion.
Likened to his fellow countryman Vasyl Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk is known for his tremendous punch output, clever footwork and silky head movement. Like Tony Bellew, Usyk has fought at heavyweight before, but in the amateur ranks, having beaten the likes of Joe Joyce five years ago. Although eleven out of his fifteen professional victories have been by way of stoppage, four out of his last six have been left to the judges’ scorecards. Thus, Usyk is able to both go for the knockout or simply box himself to a comfortable victory through the immense work rate he can produce over the course of twelve rounds. Along with this, as noted by Bellew’s trainer David Coldwell, he is able to both be the aggressor in a fight and come forward, but also comfortably sit on the back foot – both to great success. It would not be an understatement to claim that Usyk has appeared flawless in the professional ranks and has shown very few signs of vulnerability or weakness if any at all. This all makes it extremely difficult to predict how Usyk will plan to emerge victorious on Saturday night, against an opponent who has arguably matured in recent years, able to be more calculated with his shots, rather than being immersed by a red mist when tagged as he was criticised for earlier on in his career. Tony has far greater professional experience than his opponent, and his trademark left hook certainly carries power. Indeed, with ten straight victories under his belt, Bellew cannot be written off entirely in this contest, though with age and technical ability on Usyk’s side, the odds, as is often the case with The Bomber, are stacked against him.
Saturday night’s undercard will also see Anthony Crolla take on Daud Yordan in a WBA final eliminator, with the Mancunian potentially having a future bout against Lomachenko should he get past the Indonesian. Ricky Burns will also face Scott Cardle, and Boxraw’s very own Josh Kelly will face Walter Castillo following the birth of the former’s son last week.
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