Liverpool’s Tony Bellew steps back down to his natural weight division of cruiserweight having achieved two famous victories against fellow Brit David Haye at heavyweight. Bellew vacated his then WBC world title to step-up a division in 2017 in which his next opponent – Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk – went on to become the undisputed champion at cruiserweight during this time. Bellew is regarded as a massive underdog here, taking on one of boxing’s current pound-for-pound best, but similar to his bouts against Haye, he’ll be looking to upset the odds and cause another great shock come November 10th.
At the age of 35 and heading into his 34th
fight after 11 years as a professional, Tony Bellew will be facing one of his toughest ever opponents in what could be his last ever bout. Oleksandr Usyk, on the other hand, will be looking to cement his name as one of the modern greats, and if he wins in style, there is a very real possibility that he will step up a division to force his way into a fight against Anthony Joshua after just 16 fights as a professional.
Bellew has turned himself into one of the sport's sharpest tacticians, seemingly improving with age and experience. With a notable four-inch reach disadvantage against one of the best out and out boxers around, ‘Bomber’ will need to be at his all-time best.
With over double the amount of fights, 99 more rounds and six years longer as a professional, Bellew will possess the experience and he’ll need all of it on the night. However, while Usyk has been marching his way through the division and becoming undisputed world champion in the process, Bellew will have fought just twice in two years by the time this fight comes around. Furthermore, the inactivity came during his prime years, in a higher weight division and against an opponent who pulled out and rescheduled last minute – factors that could affect him heading into this encounter.
Usyk’s perfect record of 15 – 0 – 0 against many of the division's best demonstrates his unique quality. Having knocked out his first nine opponents, seemingly the Ukrainian has adapted his style from when he first fought for a world title against Krzysztof Glowacki in 2016. Since then, he has gone on to win on points four times from his last six, suggesting ‘The Cat’ has the skills, power and ringcraft to win against any opponent.
Bellew on the other hand lost for the first time on his 17th outing during a first world title shot. Two years later, after rebuilding, he forced himself into another world title shot on his 23rd
fight, only to lose again at light heavyweight. Having dropped down to cruiserweight straight after, Bellew went on to finally win a world title in his 30th fight before relinquishing to face David Haye at heavyweight. The Englishman’s 90% KO record during his last ten fights suggest he possesses the power the finish any opponent, even that of Usyk’s standard.
Overall punch success percentages were assessed from both fighter’s last bout, with Usyk going 12 rounds compared to Bellew’s five.
Although Bellew faced an aging and slower version of the Haye we have come to know, Haye was naturally a cruiserweight who possessed the speed and footwork that Usyk has.
Both fighters landed over 36% of their power punches whereas Bellew had a much more accurate jab (28.6% compared to 19.1%) that resulted in his power punches being much more damaging.
Furthermore, although Haye was successful with his jab, he was unable to get close with his power punches, landing just 10.9%, whereas Gassiev managed to land 34.3% of his power punches, suggesting Usyk can be hit regularly, something that Bellew will be looking to take advantage of.
Bellew earned himself many new fans with his victories over David Haye and showed why he is to be taken seriously. If this bout had happened two years ago then nobody in boxing would have given him a chance. And yet, this is certainly a much more even fight than is being touted with both boxers taking on their toughest opponent to date. Bellew does not possess the same speed and footwork of Usyk, meaning he is unlikely to outpoint him, while Usyk does not possess the same power as Bellew and is unlikely to KO the Liverpudlian. Therefore, both fighters will have their clear gameplans of how they can win. Nevertheless, as the younger, rangier, faster and more active fighter, Usyk will prove why he is one of the P4P best by keeping Bellew at distance and picking him off, resulting in a victory for the Ukrainian.