By Keith Idec
The one-sided odds notwithstanding, Oleksandr Usyk considers Tony Bellew the most imposing opponent of his boxing career.
“Definitely, yes,” Usyk said Thursday during a press conference in Manchester, England. “Tony is my best opponent ever. He is really dangerous. He is the same height [6-feet-3], same weight. Look at his eyes – they are angry.”
Ukraine’s Usyk, 31, is consistently listed as at least a 7-1 favorite over Liverpool’s Bellew, 35, in advance of their 12-round cruiserweight championship match Saturday night. They’ll fight for Usyk’s IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO cruiserweight titles in a Sky Sports Box Office main event from Manchester Arena (DAZN in the United States).
Bellew was, for all intents and purposes, retired before Usyk called him out following his impressive victory over Russia’s Murat Gassiev on July 21 in Moscow. Once Usyk mentioned boxing Bellew next, negotiations began for their fight Saturday night.
Bellew will move back down to cruiserweight after scoring back-to-back technical-knockout victories over David Haye in heavyweight bouts in March 2017 and May 5, both at O2 Arena in London. He won the WBC world cruiserweight title during his brief time in that division, yet realizes he’ll encounter an extremely skilled, smart southpaw in what Bellew says will be his final fight.
“I am about to take the biggest step that any British fighter has ever taken,” Bellew said Thursday. “I can lose this fight. He is very good. But I don’t think I will. I will beat him, stop him and break his heart. Time to let a monster catch a monster!”
Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) is the undisputed cruiserweight champion after dominating Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs) to win a unanimous decision in the World Boxing Super Series final.
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist previously defeated former WBC champ Mairis Briedis (24-1, 18 KOs) and ex-WBO champ Marco Huck (41-5-1, 28 KOs) in the WBSS tournament.
“We all fail in life,” Bellew said. “I have failed on a greater scale. But I have also reached greater heights. To reach great goals, you have to take great risks. If he’s as good as everyone says, I may lose. But what would have haunted me more is if I stayed retired – when he called, I walked away. That would have haunted me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.