Former WBC champ and top dog at Cruiserweight Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) is making his return back to the land of 200 pounders after a successful run at Heavyweight.
One that saw him knock out and retire former Heavyweight and Cruiserweight champ David Haye.
With all due respect to Haye this Saturday will be Bellew’s toughest challenge by far. He will be looking to knockoff current unified Cruiserweight champion Aleksandr Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs).
Usyk seemingly will have many advantages physical advantages over Bellew which is why many of the oddsmakers have tabbed him as a prohibitive favorite.
That’s a position Bellew is not only familiar with but one that he has shown to thrive under.
He was twice the underdog against Haye and was also expected to lose against Ilunga Makabu. (23-2, 22 KOs) Bellew not only won those matches but he did so in style. Usyk however is a different animal.
There’s a reason that he is already on many if not all pound-for-pound lists with only 15 fights under his belt.
The best way to describe him is to imagine a much much bigger version of Vasyl Lomachenko.
He’s that good.
Tale Of The Tape
As far measurable’s go this is a pretty close call as both men stand at 6’3. Bellew the supposedly bigger man tipped the scales at 199.8 while Usyk came in slightly lighter at 198.8.
The weights for both of these men may have only been one pound apart but make no mistake about it, it will be Tony who comes into this contest with a considerable weight advantage.
Usyk is no small man but Bellew has spent over a year at the Heavyweight division. Expect him to pack the pounds back onto his frame and look much bigger tonight.
The reach advantage falls with Usyk as he has a 78 inch reach compared to Tony’s 74. Now although this isn’t a major difference the boxing ability between these two are.
A four inch reach advantage given to the man that is already known as one of the best pure boxers in the world could bring nightmares to Bellew tonight.
The storylines for this matchup are a plenty. Before Tony went up to the Heavyweight division and before he became champion at Cruiserweight he was knocked out cold by current Light Heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson in 2013.
Fortunately for Tony he moved up and began to find success. However you would be hard pressed to find anyone who thought his career would turn out as good as it has been. When he became WBC champ at Cruiserweight he was recognized as the man to beat at the weight. It was puzzling as to why he would want to risk everything he worked so hard to achieve in order to move up to Heavyweight to take on a very dangerous opponent in David Haye.
There first bout ended controversially as Haye ruptured his Achilles and was subsequently knocked out in the 11th. A rematch the following year saw Tony not only knock Haye out again but this time in much more impressive fashion.
Bellew had since retired, leaving the sport on a high note. That is before a callout from Usyk made him change course. Bellew has gone on the record to say that his bout tonight no matter the outcome will be his last.
As for Usyk he proved that he is the current number one Cruiserweight in the world when he won the World Boxing Super Series tournament. He defeated Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev in two very impressive performances.
If Usyk is not only able to beat Bellew but do so in dominant fashion his place on the pound-for-pound list will assuredly take a leap up.
Strengths For Each Fighter
As mentioned before Aleksandr Usyk’s boxing abilities take a backseat to no one.
His ability to move and create angles are rarely if ever seen in the ring.
He has plenty of power to go along with that boxing ability as he has 11 knockouts in his 15 professional fights but it’s his ability to box that is really eye opening.
No one expects Tony Bellew to able to outbox him. The way he was able to completely outclass previously unbeaten Murat Gassiev in the WBSS final was jaw dropping.
Tony Bellew has the ability to drop anyone. As a supposed smaller man he was able to drop David Haye several times enroute to ultimately knocking him out in back to back matchups.
Tony has said publicly that he does not expect to outbox Aleksandr Usyk but he does fully expect to knock him out.
Bellew May sport less of a knockout percentage then Usyk. 61 to 73 but no mistake about it, it will be Tony who comes into the matchup with the bigger punch.
We can also expect the hometown crowd of Manchester to fully be behind Tony as well.
Weaknesses For Each Fighter
For someone with as much skill as Aleksandr Usyk it is truly difficult to find any holes in his game.
He’s a phenomenal boxer, he has plenty of knockout power and he has the ability to adjust no matter the circumstances.
The one issue he has shown in recent fights is that he has been stunned before.
Mairis Briedis managed to wobble him in there bout. Although he dominated Murat Gassiev in the finals he did manage to stun the big Ukraine man as well.
Fighting a dangerous puncher in Tony Bellew could lead to a few moments in the fight where Usyk manages to get rocked and could lead to a stoppage victory for the underdog.
For Tony it’s not that he is bad at anything. To the contrary he is actually good in a lot of areas.
He’s a good boxer and puncher. He also has plenty of heart. The problem is the person he is going up against beats him in just about every statistical category.
The Winner And Why
This will be a fun matchup. One that promises to not be a bore.
Tony Bellew will have the crowd behind him and will undoubtedly enter the ring with his confidence extremely high.
The sentimental aspect of this fight also falls in his favor. Bellew has said that win or lose this will be his last. If this is his actual last fight then unfortunately for him he will have to go out on a sour note.
Aleksandr Usyk is just to good.
Bellew will have his moments and the crowd will push and encourage him but Usyk is as good as they come.
Expect Usyk to go on to win a unanimous decision although a stoppage wouldn’t completely shock me. Either way Usyk will leave the ring tonight with his belts entact.
Header photo by DAZN