Oleksandr Usyk vs. Tony Bellew negotiations to be finalized this week
By Trevor McIntyre: Negotiations are expected to be wrapped up this week for the fight between IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) and former WBC belt holder Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) for November 10 for a still to be determined venue in the UK.
This is a fight that both Usyk and Bellew both want. It was Usyk, 31, who got the ball rolling by calling out the 35-year-old Bellew after beating IBF/WBA cruiserweight champion Murat Gassiev by a 12 round unanimous decision on July 21 in the final of the World Boxing Super Series in Moscow, Russia. Usyk could have called out anybody in the sport, but he chose Bellew and he almost immediately accepted the challenge.
Usyks promoter Alexander Krassyuk of K2 Promotions is hammering out the fight deal with Bellew’s promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN. As of several weeks of negotiation, the deal should be done this week.
By his own choosing, Bellew will move down from heavyweight to face Usyk for his 4 cruiserweight titles. Bellew could have gotten the fight with Usyk at heavyweight, but he wants a chance to capture all four of his cruiserweight belts in order to unify the division and retire on a high note as a unified champion. Bellew didn’t like the idea fighting Usyk at heavyweight with nothing on the line. Even though the southpaw Usyk is highly talented, he’s not well recognized by the casual boxing fans of the sport. Bellew is taking the fight for his ego satisfaction, but he’s not going to receive a lot of credit from the casual boxing fans who aren’t familiar with Usyk. The cruiserweight division isn’t a popular one, so Bellew won’ receive a lot of praise from fans even if he does beat Usyk.
Usyk will have to go back on the road for this fight to fight in Bellew’s home country of the UK. It’s become a norm for Usyk to travel to his opponent’s home countries. In the past, the Ukrainian Usyk fought Russian Murat Gassiev in Russia, German Marco Huck in Germany, Mairis Briedis in Latvia, American Michael Hunter in the U.S and Polish fighter Krzysztof Glowacki in Poland. Usyk doesn’t mind though, as he dominates his opponents to such an extent that he wins anyway.
Bellew wants to end his career with the Usyk fight. ‘The Bomber’ Bellew feels that he’ll take a lot of punishment against Usyk, but he thinks he can beat gim by landing his power shots like he did in stopping David Haye twice. Bellew made a lot of money in his two fights against the gimpy-legged Haye, but he didn’t get much credit due to the leg problems and the advanced against age of the ‘Hayemaker.’ For Bellew to receive credit, he’s going to need to beat a prime fighter like Usyk. Bellew has no intentions of staying around to fight the top heavyweights in the division. The only guy at heavyweight that Bellew wants to fight is former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who has looked dreadfully bad in his two fights since he started his comeback.
In addition to his recent victory over Gassiev, 2012 Olympic gold medalis Usyk has wins over Krzysztof Glowacki, Michael Hunter, Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Thabiso Mchunu. The toughest fight of Usyk’s career thus far was his 12 round majority decision victoroy over Briedis in the World Boxing Super Series tournament last January in Riga, Latvia. Usyk struggled in the first half of the fight due to the punching power and pressure Briedis was putting on him. In the second half of the fight, Briedis tired out and this enabled Usyk to come on and win a close 12 round majority decision. It wasn’t pretty, but Usyk did the job to get the decision. The fight showed that Usyk has problems with opponents with a lot of power, and who throw a lot of punches. Usyk likes to throw a lot of shots too, but he’s not powerful. He’s just a tall, rangy cruiserweight, who wins by throwing a lot of shots and moving around the ring when he has to. Usyk doesn’t always move a lot. He only moves when he’s facing someone that has power and a high work rate.
If successful with his defense against Bellew, Usyk doesn’t plan on giving up his four cruiserweight titles right away. He wants to defend against retired Andre ‘SOG’ Ward if he’s willing to continue his career and face him at cruiserweight. If not, then Usyk will likely make the move up to heavyweight to start working his way to a world title shot against IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and/or WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
“(If) Andre Ward wants to come back as a cruiserweight, Andre Ward and Usyk would be a perfect fight,” Usyk’s manager Egis Klimas said to ESPN.com. ”A perfect fight,” Klimas said. “But right now we’re trying to make Usyk and Bellew.”
Usyk might end up scaring away the other top fighters from the cruiserweight and light heavyweight division if he beats Bellew with ease.
Although it would be an excellent fight between Usyk and Ward, it’s unlikely to happen. Ward, 34, seems to be content with his retirement, and he probably won’t want to resume his career even for a big fight against Usyk. The size, power and mobility advantage that Usyk would have over Ward makes him a formidable opponent for him to take on. When Ward fought Sergey Kovalev in 2016, he clearly saw flaws in his game in terms of his stamina that he could take advantage of. In Usyk’s case, he doesn’t have those same flaws. Usyk doesn’t get tired. He’s able to fight hard for an entire fight without wearing down. Ward used his inside game to wrestle and maul Kovalev to make him tired in their two fights. That’s not a winning game plan for Ward against Usyk, which is why he’s unlikely to take the fight with him. Ward can no longer move like he used to, and his power and low work rate wouldn’t be enough for him to win a decision against him.
Murat Gassiev is going to be out of action for the next several months healing from surgery that he had on a shoulder and his nose. These were both problems that he had before he faced Usyk last July. Now that the World Boxing Super Series tournament is over, Gassiev had time to have the surgery and rest up. Gassiev will be alternate for the WBSS season 2 cruiserweight tournament.