There was to be no fairy tale ending for Tony Bellew. There was no Rocky style finish(not for Bellew anyway) – Tony Bellew who has famously made a role for himself in the hit boxing franchise couldn’t quite go out the way he would have so loved to. Unfortunately for the man they call ‘The Bomber’, he would go out the way boxings greatest ever did on the same day more than 50yrs earlier when Sugar Ray Robinson lost the final fight of his storied career on November 10th 1965.
Bellew was always going to be up against it. Usyk had an excellent amateur career topped off with a gold medal and the Ukrainian was still undefeated as a pro as well as being the undisputed cruiserweight champion. Let’s not forget to mention the series which made him a recognised star, the World Boxing Super Series in which Usyk won the Muhammad Ali trophy(incidentally Usyk shares his birthday of 17th January with Muhammad Ali)
So when Bellew decided to answer the call, having originally thought he would retire after the fights with David Haye, he had to mentally get himself ready again for war. Bellew always had the advantage with experience and a style which would present problems to anyone in the division. A smart counter puncher with a heavy punch, Bellew would be Usyk’s sternest test yet. Usyk though, had the better skills and everyone knew it, the only question was whether Bellews experience and heart could give him the edge. Usyk was always going to be the better and more skilled boxer, but Bellew is a ‘fighter’ and there was that something about him which always made you believe he could pull something out of the hat to gain victory. Bellew has always been the underdog but he always found a way to upset the odds.
The fight itself ended the way many expected it to. Usyk is a calm and calculated fighter, he applies pressure, constantly chipping away at you and doesn’t look to land a knock out blow in the early stages, preferring to instead overwhelm you with punches, forcing you to fight at a pace you are not accustomed to, once the fatigue begins to set in from fighting at a higher pace, Usyk then looks to take over and take you out.
As such, this is the way the fight went. Bellew looked the better fighter in the early going but not because he was a better fighter, but because Usyk was sticking to his game plan and laying patiently in wait. Bellews slick head movement managed to disrupt Usyk’s rythm and his counter punching got through more times than Usyk would have liked but it wasn’t enough to deter Usky from creeping forward which meant Bellew had to maintain the pace he was fighting at, which was a pace he didn’t want to fight at if he was going to last into the later rounds. As the fight wore on and came to the mid rounds, it was clear to see Bellew was beginning to fade, the breaths got deeper and longer, the punch volume began to lessen, Usyk would have no doubt noticed and the pace was ever so gently stepped up even more and the tide began to turn….
With Bellew fading and Usyk still looking sharp the end came in brutal fashion, the punches were not ‘hard’ but the constant volume of punches made it difficult for Bellew to catch a break. When the eventual knock out punches came, Bellew was exhausted and the resulting knock down displayed the level of fatigue Bellew was suffering from. Bellew fell down hard, legs splayed arms open and put to sleep. To Bellew’s credit he was able to wake up from the knock down and stand up on his own two feet but it was clear for all to see he was finished, thankfully the referee recognised this fact too and waved the fight off, sparing a tired Bellew from what would have been a nasty barrage of punches.
Oleksandr Usyk was clinical – that is the best way you can describe his performance. Nothing about his work looked unhurried and nothing suggested he was under pressure, he knew exactly what he was doing and how he was going to do it, slowly chipping away at Tony Bellew and chipping away at his defences and stamina.
As Tony Bellew walks off into the sunset at the end at what was a very good career, a career on hindsight he may not have expected to be as successful as he was, Usyk is ready to climb the boxing ladder into the heavyweight division with his sights firmly set on the champions, most notably Bellew’s good friend Anthony Joshua.
What are the chances of Usyk in the heavyweight division? That’s an article for another day….
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