Manchester plays host to a titanic Cruiserweight clash this Saturday. With all the major belts up for grabs, legacies on the line and an undisputed champion taking on the perennial odds defier, the recipe list is there. Now it’s up to Oleksandr Usyk and Tony Bellew to cook up something spectacular.
Bellew isn’t just going into the deep end this Saturday. He may as well be treading water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Usyk’s credentials reel off like a greatest hits album. Amateur world champion. Olympic gold medallist. Undefeated as a professional. The first man in history to hold all the major cruiserweight world titles. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial pugilist iceberg.
Much as been made of the Ukrainian’s movement and balance. It’s with good reason. Gliding around the ring with frightening effortlessness, you wouldn’t be surprised if he made a salsa dancer look flatfooted. With the ability to reel off punch combinations like Stephen Fry reels off beaver husbandry trivia, coupled with ring generalship a military leader would be proud of, the man is a monster. It’s little wonder he’s priced at 2/15.
It would be easy to dismiss Bellew as having little more than a puncher’s chance. But for a fighter who has defied expectations on numerous occasions throughout his career, you simply can’t write the Liverpudlian off.
The Bomber has nothing to lose and everything to gain as he approaches his (supposed) last fight, and has promised to leave everything in the ring. But the head must play an equal part as the heart here. Quite simply, Bellew needs a near perfect game-plan to beat one of world boxing’s best.
For starters, don’t let Usyk get into a rhythm. Like a billowing freight train that’s reached full pelt, he’s nigh on impossible to stop. His physical and mental dismantling of Murat Gassiev back in July is living proof.
The champion has impeccable footwork, but it takes two to tango and Bellew can use his underrated movement to frustrate his opponent. The Ukrainian isn’t used to missing and chasing shadows. Akin to a winter swim in the Black Sea, it could be a sobering experience.
Bellew has vowed to take Usyk to a place he’s never been before. He’ll have to drag the cruiserweight king kicking and screaming to get him out of his comfort zone. But if he succeeds and is able to counter punch, he can unleash a not so secret weapon… his power.
Bellew has eight knockouts in 10 fights since his last professional defeat five years ago. Possessing a “dirty left hook” as described by Anthony Joshua, it can leave most out cold.
If this hook from hell makes an impeccable appearance, the self-described “fat scouser” would pull off a shock worthy of joining boxing’s treasure trove of improbable upsets.
Bellew says he’s “daring to be great”. Where’s there a will, there’s a way. Will Saturday night end with him riding away into the sunset?
Odds correct at time of publication. Subject to change.
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