By Gregory Doyle
On Saturday night, history will be made as we witness the first ever four belt undisputed fight in Britain in the Cruiserweight division. Oleksandr Usyk (15-0) defends his WBC, WBA, WBO, IBF and Ring Magazine titles against Liverpool’s ‘Bomber’ Tony Bellew (30-2-1). The fight takes place at a sold-out Manchester Arena and is sure to have a red-hot atmosphere as this looks set to be the final fight in Bellew’s career – win, lose or draw.
Bellew, who today weighed 14st 3lbs 5oz, is the former undefeated WBC cruiserweight champion and current WBC (emeritus) Champion (emeritus means champion who has left the division in recess meaning Bellew can fight for the title again at any time, which he does this Saturday) is coming off two tremendous wins against David Haye ending the Londoner’s career and has claimed that if he does not end his own career after Saturday he faces the wrath of wife, Rachel. Firstly though, Bellew firmly has his sights set on winning the undisputed title and going down in the history books.
His opponent this Saturday is Oleksandr Usyk, who also today weighed 14th 2lbs 4oz, really needs no introduction. The Ukrainian is the reigning and defending champion of all titles on the line and has done absolutely everything there is to do in the sport of Boxing. As an Amateur he won European, World and Olympic Gold medals and has carried his amazing pedigree over to the professional ranks as he has won all major governing bodies World Titles and in his last outing vs Murat Gassiev, he clinched the World Boxing Super Series Muhammed Ali Trophy at Cruiserweight.
At today’s weigh-in, it was a very tense affair. Both fighters clearly have respect for each other but reading into the handshake and face-off there was a lot of undeniable needle. Bellew had his trademark snood/scarf around his face which he has adopted on the lead up to this fight and eager as ever to match and almost antagonistingly Usyk decided to do the same wrapping a Manchester City scarf around his mouth too. Both men made the weight comfortably and it must be said that Bellew looks in the shape of his career.
For me, Saturday will be a fantastic event. I expect Usyk to box early on and Bellew to try and put pressure on Usyk forcing him to lead with the jab to try force a mistake to land that Bomber-like left hook. However, in my mind, there is only going to be one winner on Saturday and that will be Usyk. Bellew has had a great career and has upset the odds many times before. His performances against David Haye were clinical, but are we reading to much into them?
I, like most, thought Haye would win the first fight, early, but Bellew boxed to a gameplan and Haye, whose body was rumoured to be not reacting positively to training, lived up to that rumour as he snapped his Achilles towards the middle of the fight before being stopped by Bellew late on. In the rematch, I massively fancied Bellew as at that point I knew Hayes body couldn’t keep up with his desire any longer. Previously he was heavily knocked down early at Goodison Park v llunga Makabu before coming back to brutally knock him out in three rounds and pick up the WBC title. Aside from that, his best wins at Cruiserweight were outpointing Nathan Cleverly on a split decision in a dull affair and also beating Mateusz Masternak in a hard-fought unanimous decision for the European Cruiserweight Title.
Usyk, on the other hand, has beaten everyone there is to beat in the Cruiserweight division, Bellew aside. Remarkably after 15 fights he already holds victories over Krzysztof Glowacki, Michael Hunter, Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and most recently Murat Gassiev. All of those fighters apart from Huck relinquished their undefeated records to Usyk. I would be lying though if I said I wasnt doubting even a little about the outcome on Saturday. How can you count out Bellew? He has that equalising left hook that can put anyone to sleep if they, even momentarily, switch off. Arguaby it could be said his boxing brain is under-rated too.
For me, though Usyk is a star in the making which is no discredit to Bellew and I see him frustrating Bellew, who I know will give 100%, and will have some moments in the fight and perhaps spark a bit of a toe-to-toe battle. Down the stretch I see Usyk stopping the Liverpudlian on his feet after an accumulation of shots. Everyone though hopes for a great fight and I cant wait to sit down and watch as a fan tomorrow in an event where there can only be peace after the war has come to an end.