“Usyk The Better Boxer, But Bellew Has More Than A Puncher’s Chance”

November 5, 2018

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The city of Liverpool has long been one of the UK’s sporting hubs. From the Everton team that contained William “Dixie” Dean to the all-conquering Liverpool teams of the 70s and 80s, sport has played a huge part in life on Merseyside.

While football often divides the city, fighting sports have the power to bring it together. Older fans flocked to see John Conteh as he held the WBC light heavyweight title for four years in the mid-1970s, and since then we have been treated to a conveyor belt of talented fighters from Britain’s seventh biggest city.

Right now, boxing in Liverpool is in rude health. World champions Callum Smith and Rocky Fielding both hail from Merseyside, but one fighter can claim to be the king of the city when it comes to lacing up the gloves: Tony “Bomber” Bellew.

Bellew is something of a renaissance man. Bright, engaging and with his own IMDb entry, there is a lot to like about the former WBC Cruiserweight champion, and on Saturday he’ll be hoping to retain that title and more against the current and unified 200lb king, Oleksandr Usyk.

In an odd coincidence, Usyk himself is no stranger to the big screen. While Bellew appeared in Rocky spin-off, Creed, Usyk has also portrayed a boxer on film and has lent his voice to a character in Ukrainian animation, The Stolen Princess.

Whilst very few people in attendance on Saturday night will have seen either of the champion’s movies they will be all too aware of Usyk’s other achievements. Earlier this year he became the first fighter to hold all four major versions of the cruiserweight crown. The only other boxer to get anywhere near that accolade was David Haye. In another twist it was Haye in the opposite corner for Tony Bellew’s last fight, but don’t be mistaken for thinking that this contest will be in any way similar.

David Haye was at least eight years past his best when he fought Bellew, his body destroyed by injuries and many questioning his reasons for fighting. Oleksandr Usyk is a very different prospect. At the peak of his powers, undefeated and in all probability preparing for a step up to heavyweight.

Usyk turned pro in 2013 after an illustrious amateur career in which he won the European light heavyweight title and the Olympic heavyweight gold at London 2012. He may only have 15 professional bouts on his record compared to Bellew’s 33, but Usyk has fought at the top of the pro game from the outset.

One of the reasons for this is his recent involvement in the World Boxing Super Series. The WBSS has been put together by promotional powerhouses, Richard Shaefer and the Sauerland brothers with the intended aim of finding the best boxer in each weight division.

Usyk won the inaugural Muhammad Ali trophy beating, Marco Huck, Mairis Breidis and Murat Gassiev along the way. In an ideal world Tony Bellew would have been part of this tournament but the lure of fighting David Haye at heavyweight proved too much.

Bellew gave up his WBC belt to face Haye and that is one of the intriguing aspects of Saturday’s contest. Can Usyk legitimately claim to be the best cruiserweight on the planet if he hasn’t beaten Bellew?

Whoever wins in Manchester this weekend it will almost certainly be the 200lb swansong for both men. Bellew has publicly stated that this will be his last professional fight while Usyk is thought by many to be, along with Deontay Wilder, the only risk to Anthony Joshua unifying the heavyweight division.

The Ukrainian is the heavy betting favourite and most people’s pick to triumph. The southpaw is technically very good and has ferocious power in both hands. However, Bellew is no slouch himself and as the Bomber nickname suggests, he’s hardly feather-fisted.

It would be remiss to describe Bellew as only having a puncher’s chance, but it is impossible to ignore the fact that Usyk is simply the better boxer. The fight will be a cagey affair as both men will have too much respect for the power their opponent carries. Usyk is too smart to leave himself open to the Bellew left hook but the latter’s heart and support from a partisan crowd will carry him through to the final bell.

I expect Usyk to be a wide winner on the scorecards but as Bellew points out, far too often we’ve doubted him, and he’s proved us wrong time and again. It would be a huge surprise to see Tony Bellew leave the ring with 4 belts on Saturday, but stranger things have happened.

In other news

  • Ryan Burnett suffered a shock loss to veteran Nonito Donaire in Glasgow on Saturday. Burnett appeared injured and was pulled out of the fight by his trainer at the end of the fourth round. It is unclear as to whether a punch caused the injury and WBSS organisers have said that if Burnett gets fit he can remain in the competition as a reserve.
  • In the same competition, albeit at a different weight Josh Taylor stopped American Ryan Martin to progress to the semi-final against Ivan Baranchyk and a shot at the Belarusian’s IBF title.
  • Promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren have given fans a less than welcome Christmas gift by going head-to-head with PPV cards on December 22nd. Carl Frampton was already scheduled to fight Josh Warrington and in the last few days Eddie Hearn has announced that Dereck Chisora will get his much-anticipated rematch with Dillian Whyte on the same evening.

Author: George Ogier

George has been writing about boxing and other sports for over seven years. He has written for various sites including The Mirror, Joe and Boxing Scene. He also runs his own social media management company from West Oxfordshire. When not feverishly staring at his laptop he likes to be ultimately disappointed by Tottenham Hotspur.

Twitter @george_ogier

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