SAN DIEGO, Calif., November 9, 2018 – in 2017, Oleksandr Usyk said his goal was to unify the cruiserweight division. After just 15 fights, Usyk kept his promise, winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament in a dominating decision over the formidable Murat Gassiev.
Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) certainly earned the right to take the rest of the year off. Instead, he’s on the road again, this time in Manchester, England for the UK’s biggest fight of the year and possibly the world’s biggest bout of 2018. He will face longtime British boxing favorite Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) of Liverpool, with the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO cruiserweight belts on the line.
The title fight airs live from the Manchester Arena in the U.S. on the live streaming services DAZN (pronounced Da-ZONE). The card begins at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, with the Usyk vs. Bellew fight likely to take place at approximately 5 p.ml ET/2 p.m. PT.
Bellew returns to the ring one last time
Bellew, who considered retiring after returning to form with back to back victories over David Haye at heavyweight, said he could lose Saturday if Usyk is “as good as everyone thinks he is, everyone says he is. But what would haunt me more is if I had stayed retired. I made the phone calls, I made it happen.
“He’s very good at what he does. Do I think I’m going to lose? No. Look in my eyes when I say that. I’m going to get him , I’m going to get the monster,” declared Bellew.
The impassive Usyk was relaxed at the final pre-fight news conference, saying he’d once dreamed of visiting England when he was young. “Many years ago, I was dreaming about England, about visiting England. I couldn’t imagine I would be fighting here one day, in England,” said Usyk. “I’m as glad as a small kid who received a kinder surprise,” which drew laughs.
But Usyk isn’t laughing about – or at – his opponent. “He’s really dangerous. Look at him. He’s the same height as I, the same weight. Look at his eyes. They’re angry,” said Usyk.
Despite concerns about Bellew making weight, he weighed in at 198.5 pounds. Usyk officially weighed 198¼ pounds Friday.
Usyk: undisputed champion and pound-for-pound contender
Usyk, age 31, is one of a handful of undisputed champions. After an impressive amateur career at light heavyweight, capped off with a 2012 London Olympics gold medal, he joined the enclave in Oxnard, California at the Boxing Laboratory, training alongside countryman Vasyl Lomachenko and Alexsandr Gvozdyk. The trio are seemingly unstoppable, and feed off each other in the winning atmosphere. After having trouble finding opponents who would risk their records, Usyk picked off titles one by one in the World Boxing Super Series from Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis, and Gassiev.
Bellew, a few days shy of 36, promises this is his last fight, win or lose. A win would be a surprise and an astonishing accomplishment. But Bellew has never lost at cruiserweight, standing at 7-0 with four knockouts. He is the former WBC cruiserweight champion thanks to a 2016 TKO win over Ilungaa Makabu of Congo.
Usyk is a skilled southpaw, punching with tremendous accuracy and finesse. Usyk shares boxing skills with his stablemate Lomachenko. The training methods they both employ give them strong footwork skills and the ability to assess their situation in the ring and strategize on the fly. Usyk is possibly at the peak of his career. Beating him will be a significant challenge.
Usyk: ‘Bellew is my best opponent ever’
Usyk calls Bellew his best opponent ever, which seems a polite stretch. “The main thing from my side and from Tony’s side is to perform our best. That’s why I think this event will be a real spectacular one,” said Usyk. “Bellew is my biggest challenger to date. Look at me. I’m calm, a regular person. Look at him, he’s not calm, he’s not a regular person.
“He’s an absolutely fantastic fighter,” said Bellew. “I have no degrading words or anything negative really to say about him. He’s the monster and the boogeyman that everybody’s scared of and I’ll meet him face-on, on November 10th, and I’m gonna smash his face in.”
Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn’s customary hyperbole about his fights does this one justice. “This fight is the biggest fight, best fight that Matchroom Boxing has ever promoted. Crème de la crème it doesn’t get better than this. The undisputed crjuiserweight championship of the world. The opportunity to say, you are king.
“As we all know, before peace must come war. On Saturday night, I promise you one of the most gripping, compelling fights ever seen in this country,” declared Hearn.
Prediction: Usyk by unanimous decision
The stakes are high with an entire division’s worth of titles on the line. Usyk didn’t get them by being reckless. He is well trained and disciplined. He would do well to impose his discipline on Bellew. Bellew cannot outbox Usyk, and Usyl can roll up the round on the scorecard early, wearing his older opponent out, and then impose his will on Bellew. This is how he beat the younger, fresher Murat Gassive with ease.
But Bellew does have power, particularly in his left hook, and he has the passion that creates a puncher’s chance. This is why the fight is compelling. Bellew wou;d be smart to employ the approach that worked for Orlando Salido in his win against Vasyl Lomachenko. He should use his size to bully Usyk in the ring, getting up close and personal and muscling Usyk on the inside. If he can prevent Usyk from fully extending and punching, he will negate some of his power. Bellew also stands the chance of wearing Usyk down a little. If he’s close enough to see the opportunity to throw the perfect counterpiunch, he might get that stunning lights out moment he wants.
But it’s unlikely. Count on Usyk to win a decision that is more impressive for its surgical precision than its raw combat.
Usyk’s talent, drive, and fan friendly personality outside the ring and the knockout power inside the ring has helped bring the spotlight back to the cruiserweight division, languishing since the days Evander Holyfield ruled it 30 years ago. Enjoy it while you can. Usyk is likely to move up to heavyweight where there are new challenges and big money.
How to watch Usyk vs. Bellew in the U.S.
Usyk vs. Bellew airs live from the Manchester Arena in the U.S. on the live streaming services DAZN (pronounced Da-ZONE). The card begins at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, with the Usyk vs. Bellew fight likely to take place at approximately 5 p.ml ET/2 p.m. PT. You can sign up for a free trial of DAZN USA here.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
Copyright © 2018 by Falcon Valley Group