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Tony Bellew accepts Aleksandr Usyk’s challenge

Image: Tony Bellew accepts Aleksandr Usyk’s challenge

By Scott Gilfoid: Tony Bellew has accepted the challenge to face unified IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO and Ring cruiserweight champion Aleksandr Usyk’s challenge to face him following his decisive 12 round unanimous decision win over IBF/WBA champion Murat Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs) last Saturday night in World Boxing Super Series final in Moscow, Russia.

Usyk told the boxing fans after the fight that he wants to face the 35-year-old Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) in his next fight, either at cruiserweight or heavyweight. Usyk doesn’t care. He wants to fight Bellew before he goes after the talented fighters at heavyweight.

Bellew is currently rated #5 by the World Boxing Council at heavyweight. If Usyk can take Bellew’s scalp, he’ll be vaulted into a top five ranking with the WBC and be within earshot of a title shot against the 6’7” WBC heavyweight champion Deontay ‘Bronze Bomber’ Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs). It remains to be seen whether Usyk is interested in targeting a lethal threat like Wilder first or if his main focus for a world title shot is IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs).

”Usyk I was BORN READY!! Let’s get this done!!” Bellew said on his social media site in response to Usyk calling him out after his big win over Murat Gassiev.

Image: Tony Bellew accepts Aleksandr Usyk’s challenge

What’s interesting is how little excitement that Bellew showed in response to Usyk calling him out. Normally when Bellew is called out by a fighter, it’s like a dam bursting with him talking nonstop trash about how he’s going to beat the brakes off the fighter. In this case, Bellew wasn’t wordy in his response to Usyk’s challenge to him. This is very odd for Bellew, as it’s totally unlike him not to start talking nonstop. It makes me think that Bellew wants no part of the talented Usyk. I mean, I’m not surprised that Bellew isn’t super excited about being called out by Usyk, because it’s an AWFUL match-up for him. Usyk is so much better than Bellew that it’s not even funny. Heck, Gassiev is leagues better than Bellew in my opinion, and so is Mairis Briedis, who Bellew swerved in 2017 when he was the WBC belt holder at cruiserweight. I can’t see Bellew beating Gassiev, Briedis, Denis Lebedev or Yunier Dorticos.

Usyk, 31, was fast to respond to Bellew, saying,

Last Saturday night, Usyk won the Muhammad Ali Trophy, beating Gassiev by a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 120-118, 119-109 and 119-109. The victory for Usyk over the 24-year-old Gassiev won him the IBF and WBA belts, making him the unified champion at cruiserweight. Usyk came into the fight with Gassiev as the WBC/WBO champion. The victory for Usyk makes him the IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO champion at cruiserweight.

After Usyk’s victory over Gassiev, with the spotlight on him, he said to ITV Box Office, “Hey Tony Bellew, are you ready? If he doesn’t want to go down, I will go up for him. I will eat more spaghetti for my dinner!”

Usyk might have already scared Bellew away with his impressive win over Gassiev. We’ll have to see whether Bellew is interested in the Usyk fight or not. The coming months should tell us all we want to know. Bellew wants to fight former undisputed heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, current WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevenson and the retired Andre Ward. All of those fights are possible for Bellew.

Matchoom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn can likely make the Bellew-Ward fight if he offers Ward enough money to get him to come out of retirement. A fight against Adonis Stevenson would need negotiating to find a good catch-weight for him and Bellew to fight at. Stevenson defeated Bellew by a 6th round knockout in 2013. Bellew would like to avenge that loss if possible. The bigger money fights for Bellew would be Fury and Ward. Hearn didn’t like the idea of Bellew fighting Usyk or Gassiev before their fight last Saturday night because he felt there was little money for him fighting either of those. However, Hearn has changed his mind. He now thinks that Usyk’s win over Gassiev will mean more money for a Usyk-Bellew fight than what the fight would previously bring in.

“That was a big win for Usyk and he has established himself as arguably the pound-for-pound No 1 in boxing right now,” Hearn said to Sky Sports News. “Bellew v Usyk is one of the best fights that can be made right now. I said I wouldn’t let him fight Usyk for a third of what he got to fight Haye. The numbers moved a little last night. I think we have a great chance of making this.”

Hearn is obviously just guessing about the numbers for a Bellew-Usyk fight. I do believe that fight would easily outdo the pay-per-view numbers a fight between Bellew and Ward or Stevenson would bring in. Usyk has the hot hand right now following his win over Gassiev in the World Boxing Super Series tournament.

Usyk is considered the best fighter in the cruiserweight division by fans. You can’t say the same thing about Stevenson and Ward at 175. Neither of them is considered the best at light heavyweight. WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol is viewed as the best fighter at 175 by boxing fans. Ward is a retired fighter, who hasn’t fought in over a year and he didn’t look all that great in his last two fights against Sergey Kovalev. For his part, the 40-year-old Stevenson is coming off of a 12 round draw against Badou Jack. There’s not as much upside for Bellew in facing Stevenson or Ward. The Fury fight isn’t available to Bellew. The fight that makes the most sense for Bellew is Usyk if he’s willing to take the risk in facing him.

Usyk’s victory over Gassiev puts him past former cruiserweight champion Evander Holyfield in giving him four world titles. Holyfield had three cruiserweight titles in his possession when he moved up to heavyweight in 1988. However, Holyfield was much more dominant than Usyk when he was a three-belt champion at cruiserweight. The 1988 version of Holyfield would have been a nightmare for Usyk if he had been teleported from the past to face him last night. All the things that the limited Gassiev failed to do against Usyk, Holyfield would have done. I think it would have ended badly for Usyk if he had faced a young Holyfield. Usyk isn’t that type of talent unfortunately. Usyk is a runner/boxer, who throws pitty-pat shots, and has no inside game at all. Holyfeld would cut the ring off on Usyk and work him over on the inside. Usyk would be easy work for a prime 1988 version of Holyfield. It just goes to show you that this era doesn’t compare to the 1980s in terms of the cruiserweight division.

Hearn has some doubts whether Bellew can still make cruiserweight, but he feels the fight can be made at heavyweight. Usyk plans on moving up to heavyweight anyway, so the fight can be made at that weight. This isn’t a case of Vasyl Lomachenko telling Manny Pacquiao that he needs to come down two weight divisions to fight him at 135 or else not fight. Usyk is willing to do what he needs to do for him to get the fight against Bellew.

Bellew is coming off of back to back stoppage wins over a shot David Haye at heavyweight. The victories for Bellew have him feeling confident. However, he’s shown no interest in fighting any of the top contenders at heavyweight to prove him against them. Bellew only wants to fight Tyson Fury at heavyweight and not the contenders like Kubrat Pulev, Luis Ortiz, Adam Kownacki, Dillian Whyte, Jarrell Miller or Joseph Parker.

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