By Keith Idec
Carl Froch figures Tony Bellew’s power will make him dangerous against Oleksandr Usyk right up until the final bell Saturday night.
The unbeaten Usyk is heavily favored to beat Bellew in their cruiserweight title fight at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England (Sky Sports Box Office; DAZN). The retired Froch, now a Sky Sports boxing analyst, still gives Bellew a better chance than the lopsided odds indicate of upsetting Usyk.
“If Tony can work that game plan, which might be – get your gloves up high, don’t get hit with silly shots and back up Usyk for five or six rounds,” Froch told Sky Sports for a story posted to the network’s website Monday. “Put pressure on him by using your feet. Get in his face. You might lose the rounds, but you can try to exhaust him for the second half of the fight.
“Bellew has then got that punch, and if he lands that left hook, Usyk will be out cold. I know he will, because Bellew is a massive puncher.”
Ukraine’s Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) is a better boxer than Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs), but Froch feels Bellew’s technical skills have been unfairly discounted entering their 12-round fight for Usyk’s IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO cruiserweight crowns.
“You know what?,” Froch said. “People are underestimating Bellew’s boxing ability. If he can use his boxing brain in the early stages, he can get to Usyk with his power later on. I’m hopeful that Tony can knock out Usyk, and cause a massive upset that would turn him into a superstar. I don’t want to say it will be his last fight, because he probably will have to defend [the cruiserweight titles] then. That would be amazing.”
The 35-year-old Bellew won the WBC world cruiserweight title in 2016, but his last two fights have been contested at heavyweight. The Liverpool native weighed in at 210½ pounds for his second technical-knockout victory over David Haye on May 5 at O2 Arena in London.
Bellew won’t own a size advantage over Usyk, however, as they both stand 6-feet-3. Froch expects Usyk to win plenty of rounds against Bellew, but reminded fans Bellew will be dangerous even late in a one-sided fight against the 31-year-old southpaw.
“Whatever is happening early on,” Froch advised Bellew, “if you’re getting out-jabbed, if you cannot get to him, don’t forget it’s a 12-round fight. He’s in this fight with a punch for 36 minutes, so never give up, believe.
“Even if you’re in the last round, look at me against Jermain Taylor. Behind on all the scorecards, I stopped him with 14 seconds to go. He’s got to fight until the last second of the last round, and put the pressure on him late.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.