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Bellew: I’ll find a way to defeat the monster [Usyk]

Alexander Usyk Tony Bellew

By Tim Royner: Tony Bellew says he’s got to find a way to defeat the fighter he calls “the monster’ next Saturday night when he challenges unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk on November 10 at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.

Bellew, 35, is a considerable underdog in this fight, however, making his job a lot tougher than he and his boxing fans believe it to be. Bellew is a good fighter, but it’s such a long shot for him to beat Usyk. When Bellew has stepped up in the past against Nathan Cleverly and Adonis Stevenson, he lost. Bellew’s signature wins in his career are a pair of victories over David Haye when the Hayemaker was unquestionably past his best. Usyk isn’t old and injury depleted the way that Haye was when he fought Bellew twice. Usyk won’t make the mistake of parking his back against the ropes the way that Illunka Makabu did against Bellew in 2016 to make it easy for him. Usyk doesn’t fight with his back against the ropes.

“I will find a way to defeat the monster. I don’t know how or when, or at what stage it will happen,” Bellew said to “But I will get to him. I’ll get him. He will feel something that he’s never felt.”

Bellew’s two wins over David Haye has done wonders for his confidence. If Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) was ever short on self-confidence, you can’t say that now about him. He believes he’s going to find a way to defeat the 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk on Saturday night, and so does trainer Dave Coldwell. They have been studying Usyk’s past fights backwards and forwards, and they believe that he’s beatable.

Unfortunately for Bellew, he’s not going to be sharing the ring with David Haye next Saturday night when he challenges Usyk for his four cruiserweight world titles. Bellew is going to come up against the real thing, a fighter who has beaten two of the best fighters in the cruiserweight division in Murat Gassiev and Mairis Briedis. Bellew ha the chance to fight Briedis, but he opted to take on BJ Flores instead, and then leave the division so that he can fight Haye twice. The World Boxing Council wasn’t going to wait around forever for Bellew to eventually come back, so they did the only thing they could when dealing with a reluctant champion not showing interest in defending his WBC cruiserweight title against his mandatory challenger Briedis by stripping him of his title.

“Let’s see if he wants this as much as me. If he does, you’re in for the best night of fighting ever,” Bellew said.

Usyk has only struggled in two of his fights as a pro in his matches against Mairis Briedis and Michael Hunter. Both of those guys attacked Usyk in a relentless manner, throwing countless shots, and forcing him to fight harder than he was used to doing. Usyk had to get on his bike in both of the fights to neutralize the high work rate of those two fighters. Bellew doesn’t throw a lot of punches, so he’s probably not going to be able to outwork Usyk. Bellew’s work rate is similar to Murat Gassiev’s.

Trainer Dave Coldwell says Bellew has more technical boxing skills than the 31-year-old Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) and he thinks he can win the fight. The problem that Coldwell and Bellew have in this fight is that their confidence has nothing to do with reality. Usyk is considered to be the better fighter all around than Bellew, so it doesn’t matter how much faith Coldwell has in Tony. The reality will likely be far different than his vision.

“Do I think Briedis is a better fighter than Bellew? That’s a matter of opinion. I don’t think he is,” said Coldwell to IFL TV in discussing his untested theory that Bellew is a more technical fighter than Usyk. “Briedis was also finding him with his right hand, and finding him with left hooks. Briedis is short. He’s a small geezer. So if Briedis can reach him, then Tony is going to reach him. The most important thing in this fight is Tony upsets Usyk’s rhythm. Bellew can punch,” Coldwell said.

What makes it difficult to take Coldwell seriously in his belief that Bellew is a more technical fighter than Usyk is the fact that he lost to Nathan Cleverly in their first fight. Bellew was given a draw in his first fight against Isaac Chilemba in 2013 that many boxing fans saw as a gift to Tony by the judges in this fight, which took place in his hometown of Liverpool, England. Bellew appeared to lose the fight by eight rounds. It was a one-sided contest, but he was given a draw. In the rematch, Bellew beat Chilemba by a controversial 12 round unanimous decision in May 2013 at the O2 Arena in London, England. It’s difficult to picture Usyk losing to Chilemba, Cleverly and Adonis Stevenson. Usyk didn’t avoid Mairis Briedis, a fighter that Bellew appeared to duck in 2016 after he won the vacant World Boxing Council cruiserweight title and Mairis was named his mandatory. Bellew vacated the belt and moved up to heavyweight.

“He gets hit and he has lost rounds,” said trainer Dave Coldwell about Usyk. “So if he can lose rounds and get hit, then he can get beat. When I look at [Mairis] Briedis, especially the first five rounds of the [Usyk vs.] Briedis fight, Briedis’ inexperience cost him that fight, because he was winning the fight,” Coldwell said.

Bellew wants to beat Usyk, take his four cruiserweight titles, and then retire from boxing as a four-belt champion. That’s Bellew’s dream scenario. Few fans believe that it’ll workout for him though. The fans believe Bellew will lose every round of the fight on Saturday, and possibly end up getting stopped by Usyk. It would be a nice way for Bellew to end his career if he does beat Usyk and then bow out of the sport. Even if Bellew does win, his promoter Eddie Hearn will likely encourage him to return to defend the titles against Usyk. It won’t work in Hearn’s favor if Bellew beats Usyk, as he wants to match the Ukrainian fighter against Anthony Joshua in the near future. Hearn needs Usyk to win the fight on Saturday for him to keep alive the chance of him making the fight between him and Joshua in a year or two on Sky Box Office PPV. Bellew is useless to Hearn given that he’s on his way out of the sport. Now it’s Usyk’s time, and Hearn has to build him up to make him a big name in the UK. Bellew can ruin Hearn’s plans if he beats Usyk next Saturday night. Hearn needs to build up this fight as much as possible to get the boxing fans in the UK interested in seeing the Bellew vs. Usyk fight. This isn’t just about this fight. It’s about making a name for Usyk so that Hearn can stick him in with Joshua in the future. This is Usyk’s coming out party so to speak, and Bellew is the token lamb.

“Tony Bellew really believes [he can win], and I really believe,” Coldwell said. “Bellew an adapt in any fight as well. He can box going forward, and he can box going back. He may have to do that in this fight. He’s going to do everything in his power to beat Usyk. He 100 percent believes he can beat Usyk,” Coldwell said.

While you can’t rule out an upset victory for Bellew over Usyk, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll get the victory. Usyk is at the zenith of his career right now, and he’s coming off of wins over two fighters – Gassiev and Briedis – that would both likely beat Bellew without much trouble. Bellew has never shown himself to be a class cruiserweight. His only wins against notable fighters in the division came against Illunga Makabu, BJ Flores and Mateusz Masternak. Those are not high caliber cruiserweights. Those are more fringe level fighters.

“I don’t disagree,” Coldwell said when told that Johnny Nelson said that he thinks Bellew is a technically superior fighter than Usyk. “I think Usyk is very fast. He has such high energy, and he throws a million punches. But if you strip away the speed, the energy, the volume, is he technically fantastic? He’s technically good, but he’s not technically fantastic. It’s a different style. He’s great in the amateur style. He’s got that volume. Bellew can adapt, and he’s shown that he can adapt. When you talk about technique in boxing, I think he’s every evenly matched. Bellew is more adaptable. He can do more things,” Coldwell said.

It’s unclear what Coldwell is driving at in talking about stripping Usyk of his speed, energy and volume punching. This is so much make believe from Coldwell that it doesn’t make sense. It goes without saying that Usyk isn’t the same fighter if he’s stripped of his talent, but the same would go for Bellew. If he didn’t have his power, he’d just be a tall fighter, who fights in an upright manner and is easy to hit. The problem is that Usyk won’t be stripped of his energy, speed and volume punching this Saturday night, and Bellew is going to have a devil of a time trying to deal with the Ukrainian fighter’s existing ability. It’s going to be bad for Bellew if he can’t land a big shot on the chin of Usyk that puts him down on the canvas for the 10 count or if we don’t see one of those quick premature stoppages.

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