Tony Bellew says he’s not emotional about his last fight in a boxing ring before hanging his gloves up. He claims to be fully focussed on the bout against undisputed cruiserweight Champion Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday in what he says has to be his last otherwise “his wife will kill him”. Tony isn’t just hanging up the gloves for his wife though, it has seemed that he has wanted out for a while and although I don’t doubt his ambition to create history and hold all four belts, this is in reality, just one last payday for Bellew.
Unwilling to risk severe injury by fighting the likes of Joshua and Wilder despite moving up to Heavyweight, the return back down to cruiserweight and fighting a technical boxer who is unlikely to cause him too much damage is a massive free roll for Tony. Usyk is not only a great fighter but an interesting character whose popularity is growing. I can’t claim to have seen much of his 15 professional fights so far but judging by the Gassiev fight, where the hard-hitting Russian failed to land anything significant on the Ukrainian, it’s going to take something extremely special to defeat the unified champion.
Usyk is by all accounts, a very fluid fighter in a similar mould to his good friend and compatriot Vasyl Lomachenko and his work rate alone will be tough for Bellew to deal with. He won’t be the hardest puncher that Bellew has faced but he has a huge physique with long arms (he has a 4 inch reach advantage over Bellew) that are constantly moving to create a water tight defense. I don’t think it’s that Usyk can’t hit hard, it’s just his style, developed from the Olympics and a long amateur career doesn’t require him to. We know that Tony “carries power” but it’s hard to see how he is going to get close enough to Usyk to land anything significant.
Bellew is 36 at the end of this month and making the weight for cruiserweight in just 3 months will have really taken its toll on him. You can see the tiredness mixed with relief in his face that this will be his last fight. It seems most are reluctant to write Bellew off after the Haye fights, but each fight has to be evaluated on its merits. Haye was severely hampered physically in both fights and although he is now wise enough not to draw upon those excuses, it’s clear to most that Haye’s body was no longer up to boxing. It wasn’t just the unhealed achilles, it’s now known about Haye having an operation on his spine and having to learn to walk again.
In Haye’s mind it doesn’t matter whether it was his body that let him down or not though. He wasn’t good enough at that time to beat Bellew. Now retired, he is well aware he will gain more respect from the fans by saying he was beaten by the better man and he doesn’t need to promote himself anymore.
It is important to analyse the reasoning for that win when trying to predict what will happen in this fight however and at the risk of looking stupid for a third time, I’m giving Bellew next to no chance. I don’t doubt his heart and fully expect Bellew to give all he has in this fight. In a similar way to Froch’s valiant effort against Andre Ward, he will ultimately come up short.
Usyk on points is the most likely outcome in my opinion and I can’t see Bellew being busy enough to convince any judges to see it the way of the Englishman. So a unanimous decision for Usyk at a best available price of 9/4 looks the best bet. I do think this could be such an exhausting fight physically and emotionally for Bellew, that there is a decent chance he might have nothing extra to give and be stopped in the later rounds. Though I don’t agree a stoppage should be the most likely outcome at 4/5. Bellew’s pride and determination should hopefully see him see the final bell.
Prediction: Usyk to win by unanimous decision at 9/4.