Bellew rates Usyk’s power: “He’s not the biggest puncher”
By Scott Gilfoid: After weeks of bold trash talking, Tony Bellew met up with IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk last Saturday and folded up quickly under the heat of his scorching power punches in the 8th round. Bellew was left in a clump on the canvas in the 8th after taking a power left from Usyk with full force.
Interestingly enough, despite getting stopped in the 8th round, Bellew (30-3-1, 20 KOs) walked away from the fight not all that impressed with the punching power of the 31-year-old Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs), who he doesn’t rate as a big puncher.
Bellew was more impressed with Usyks mobility, boxing skills and ring IQ, which he feels is the top of the sport. Bellew says he thinks that Usyk is the best cruiserweight he’s ever seen before. Evidently, Bellew never saw video of Evander Holyfield when he was campaigning as a cruiserweight from 1984 to 1988.
If Bellew had seen how good Holyfield looked during his four years as a cruiserweight, he might think twice about saying Usyk is the best fighter he’s ever seen in that weight class. Holyfield was dominating everyone he fought, and not struggling like we saw with Usyk last night and in his fights against Michael Hunter, Mairis Briedis and Thabiso Mchunu.
“I tried to do the unimaginable and it didn’t go right,” Bellew said about his loss to Usyk. “I lost to the better man. I’ve achieved everything. So many people wrote me off for this fight. I was told I was winning on two cards. He’s such a neat, tidy boxer. His footwork was exceptional,” Bellew said.
It’s hard to know how good of a puncher Usyk is from his showing against Bellew. Usyk spent most of the fight boxing Bellew and not sitting down on his shots. It wasn’t until Usyk started sitting down on his shots in the 6th round that he had Bellew looking unsure of himself, and no longer willing to return fire like he’d been doing in the first five rounds. When Usyk did open up with his full power in the 7th, he had Bellew reeling. From that point on, it was only a matter of time before the Ukrainian star knocked Bellew out. It was absolutely clear that Bellew was going to be knocked out by the 7th.
What made it even more certain that Bellew was going to get stopped was how angry Usyk was. Bellew had been showboating during and after the rounds, playing toe the crowd and taunting the polite and respectful Usyk. Oleksander took the taunting well until the 6th round. Bellew got on Usyk’s last nerve in that round, and he opened up a can of worms by glaring at him after hitting him hard with a right hand just as the bell sounded to end the round. The way that Usyk angrily stared back at Bellew, it was painfully obvious that he was no longer going to take it easy on him the way he’d been doing in the first five rounds. When Usyk came out for the 7th, he looked like a completely different fighter with the way that he went on the attack, tagging Bellew with lefts down the pipe, sweeping hooks and nice right hands. Bellew looked like he went into immediate shock, as he seemed to realize that he was sharing the ring with a monster that he didn’t have any clue in how to deal with. The Usyk that Bellew was fighting from the 7th was a completely different fighter than the one that he’d been competing with in the first six rounds. Bellew might as well have folded up his tent and went home after the 6th, considering the fight was no longer remotely competitive from that point.
“No cruiserweight that I’ve ever seen beats him,” Bellew said in talking about Usyk. “He caught me with a shot in the 3rd or 4th. I can’t remember anything after that. I hit him hard in the 5th. He thought I was showboating him, but I wasn’t showboating him,” Bellew said.
Bellew was clearly showboating and taunting Usyk for the first six rounds. It wasn’t until the 7th that Bellew stopped taunting Usyk, and the reason for that was because he was under an unrelenting attack from the Ukrainian star. It was as if Bellew had woken up a sleeping bear, and he was suddenly dealing with a situation that he was under-equipped to handle. Perhaps if Bellew had the talent of someone like Yunier Dorticos, Murat Gassiev and Mairis Briedis, he would have been able to stand in there to make it to the final bell. With the way the judges were scoring the fight last Saturday, Bellew would have had a good chance of winning the fight if he’d made it the distance with Usyk. But with all the showboating that Bellew was doing, Usyk appeared to lose his temper and decided to knock him out. Usyk wasn’t able to KO Briedis and Gassiev, but then again, those guys were taunting him relentlessly the way that Bellew was doing. Usyk might have knocked Gassiev and Briedis out if those guys had showboated like mad the way Bellew was doing.
“I knew I was frustrating him, because no one had ever made him miss and frustrate him,” Bellew said in gloating about how he was showboating. “I could see it visibly in his face. I knew I caught him with a right hook that he felt. He said to me, ‘You punch really hard.’ He’s not the biggest puncher. It’s a stiff [puncher]. He gets your respect. The plan going in was to hit him to the body and make him uncomfortable, but I couldn’t get close to him,” Bellew said.
The way that Bellew seems to be so high on himself, one would think that he beat some of the best fighters in the light heavyweight, cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions during his career. The fact of the matter is, Bellew never beat anyone talented enough for him to see himself as having accomplished a great deal. His best wins were against Isaac Chilemba [controversial decision], Illunga Makabu, David Haye [old & injured] and BJ Flores. Those are Bellew’s best wins, and none of them were against the cream of the crop in the divisions he was fighting in during his career.