Having stepped up to the heavyweight division to end the career of David Haye, Britain’s Tony Bellew returns to Cruiserweight level this weekend for the first time since taking on BJ Flores back in October 2016.
It’s been a long period of success for the 35 year old from Liverpool but that run of positive results will be severely tested on Saturday when Bellew runs into undefeated Ukrainian fighter Oleksandr Usyk
All four world cruiserweight belts are on the line when Bellew and Usyk step into the ring at the Manchester Arena on November 10, in a bout that is scheduled to get underway at 10pm UK time. The unification contest means that the winner will claim the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO titles, all of which are currently held by Oleksandr Usyk following his victory over Murat Gassiev back in July.
Bellew is very much the outsider in the boxing betting markets while Usyk, with his perfect record of 15 wins from 15 pro fights is a clear favourite but can the Englishman find a way through to upset those odds?
Usyk’s record of 15-0 includes 11 wins by knockout and he goes up against Bellew’s respectable return of 30 wins from 33 outings with two defeats and one draw. 20 of those 30 victories have been by knockout so clearly both men have the capability to end proceedings early if they are on top of their game.
Bellew is the older of the two opponents but as he approaches his 36th birthday at the end of November, the British boxer isn’t giving too much away to his opponent. What is noticeable is that at 31, Osyk has just those 15 professional fights behind him so, is a relative lack of experience one area for the home boxer to exploit?
Bellew’s former nemesis David Haye is one observer who feels his longer pro career could count in his favour in Manchester. Haye also feels that while the Englishman is in the unusual position as the outsider, he’s not unfamiliar with a step up, particularly on those occasions where he has fought in the heavyweight division.
We know that Bellew will never shirk a challenge but it’s crucial that he gets his left hook away. It’s hardly a secret weapon and Usyk will be well aware of the dangers it brings but it’s a threat that remains hard to defend.
As for the Ukrainian, he’s been referred to as the perfect fighter and a man that lacks an obvious weakness but has he been truly tested in such a relatively brief career? Those who subscribe to that theory are overlooking his two most recent contests: Both Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev came along with proud, perfect records only to record their first losses at the hands, and gloves of Oleksandr Usyk.
As the fighters prepare to enter the ring the only certainty is that Tony Bellew is truly up against it. It’s true that Usyk’s pro career started late following his gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London but the suggestion that experience will tell may just be a distant hope.
Shocks can and do continue to happen in this sport and we’ve also seen a number of draws in recent title fights but Usyk to win seems the only possible outcome. That’s not a happy conclusion for home supporters but anyone looking to stake on this battle could switch from the result market for better value. Based on their corresponding records, the ‘no’ vote on the fight to go the distance could be the safest call of the night.