On Saturday night at the Manchester Arena, undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk defends his collection of belts against former WBC titleholder Tony Bellew.
Ukrainian Usyk unified the division with stellar performances in the World Boxing Super Series, outpointing Mairis Breidis in a thrilling January encounter before putting on a masterclass against Murat Gassiev in June’s Moscow final to claim the Muhammad Ali trophy.
The self-proclaimed Bomber will embrace the familiar role of underdog, and having been subject to a degree of criticism in some quarters for not entering the aforementioned tournament, now has the opportunity to silence those critics and simultaneously make history in the biggest fight of his career.
Like his Ukrainian counterpart, the Liverpudlian carries a significant amount of momentum coming into this fight after successful ventures at heavyweight, with two successive stoppage wins over an ageing, albeit heavily favoured David Haye.
Nevertheless, he faces a formidable challenge in 2012 Olympic gold medallist Usyk – undefeated in 15 fights – a supremely skilled and athletic southpaw who captured the WBO world title in just his tenth fight on away soil against defending champion Krystof Glowacki in 2016.
A surgical, relentless fighter with poise and speed, Usyk has a penchant for sacrificing power for sheer volume, but is still capable of putting together spiteful combinations when necessary, as exemplified by the fact that he has stopped all but four of his opponents.
Indeed, most cruiserweights are capable of hitting hard, most of all Tony Bellew, who is known for possessing potentially destructive force in his left hook coupled with an indomitable fighting spirit and a seasoned deftness honed by years of professional experience; something in particular which makes him a markedly different proposition than the stronger but somewhat slower Gassiev.
Bellew is hittable and hurtable, but will be heartened by his experience in getting off the canvas to win, something which he has done on multiple occasions throughout the years.
Ultimately, however, while the Scouser’s tenacity and courage is undeniable, by his own admission Usyk is the superior boxer, and it’s likely that the gulf in class will become readily apparent early on.
Therefore it’s reasonable to believe that if Usyk makes a characteristically fast start and Tony Bellew makes an aggressive one, this fight could very well be over before it reaches the midway point.
If this is the case, expect Usyk to swiftly get to work applying pressure and overwhelming his adversary with fast, accurate flurries as Tony Bellew is stopped on his feet inside six rounds.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: @DarkMan________