Bellew says Usyk must “go through me” to get Joshua fight
By Scott Gilfoid: Tony Bellew proudly sees himself as the gatekeeper that separates IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk from facing heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in a huge career payday fight that could take place in 2019 or 2020.
Usyk recently signed a multi-fight deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing stable, which makes it academic that he’ll get at least one if not two fights against Joshua whether the first fight is close or not.
The 35-year-old Bellew feels honored that he was selected as the guy that the unbeaten Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) must defeat for him to face Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs).
Bellew will be challenging Usyk for his four cruiserweight titles in less than two weeks from now on November 10 on Sky Box Office PPV at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. As much as Bellew wants to pat himself on the back for having been called out by Usyk, he doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of winning the fight. Bellew is expected to lose to Usyk far worse than Murat Gassiev recently did in the final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament last summer on July 21 in Moscow, Russia. Bellew is expected to be slaughtered by Usyk unless the Ukrainian talent chooses to toy with him like a cat playing with it’s prey.
Usyk might elect to keep Bellew around for the full 12 rounds in order to give the boxing fans a show. In that case, this could be long night for Bellew in which he gets clowned by Usyk. But in no way was Bellew selected by Usyk because he’s seen as the guy that he absolutely must beat talent-wise in order to get to the Joshua fight. There are clearly more deserving fighters in the heavyweight division that Usyk SHOULD need to fight in order to earn a fight against Joshua. However, this is boxing, and the WBO is said to be ready to rank Usyk at #1 at heavyweight as soon as he moves up in weight officially. So, in effect, Bellew will likely be the toughest opponent Usyk faces before he’s given a title shot against Joshua in 2019 or 2020. Promoter Eddie Hearn isn’t likely going to insist on Usyk going through Dillian Whyte, Alexander Povetkin, Jarrell Miller or Joseph Parker before he matches him against Joshua.
The World Boxing Organization has elevated Bellew to #1 at cruiserweight despite the fact that he hasn’t fought in that division for two years. Bellew’s last fight at cruiserweight took place in October 2016 in beating #14 WBC fringe contender BJ Flores by a 3rd round knockout. Normally when a fighter hasn’t fought in a weight class for a year or more, they lose their rankings. In Bellew’s case, he’s been pushed to #1 by the WBO for some unexplained reason. If this was the NFL, it would be like a team not competing for two years and then suddenly put in the equivalent of the Super Bowl after having done nothing to rate the game. This is boxing though, and things happen for unexplained reasons much of the time.
The reality is, Usyk is now promoted by Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who also promotes Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) and Joshua. As a result, Bellew is getting a fight against Usyk that would normally go to a much more talented fighter like Luis Ortiz for him to get a title shot against Joshua. Additionally, Bellew gives Usyk a chance for a nice payday before he faces Joshua due to the PPV money available from Sky Box Office. There are clearly more talented fighters than Bellew in the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions for Usyk to fight, but they’re not PPV fighters. As such, it’s an easy decision for Usyk to fight Bellew in a money-making fight rather than taking on one of the tough cruiserweights like Yunier Dorticos or one of the talented heavyweights like Ortiz.
“People look at me as if they think I’m a good enough name for them to qualify to fight AJ,” Bellew said to skysports.com. “Oleksandr Usyk will not be the first, and he possibly won’t be the last. Let’s just see how it goes.”
It sounds like Bellew is more than a little deluded about how the boxing public sees him in terms of his fight against Usyk. You can argue that the only reasons Bellew is getting the fight against Usyk are the reasons I mentioned. Bellew is with Hearn and now so is Usyk. Since Hearn likes to setup fights between his own Matchroom stable fighters, it makes it a no-brainer that he’s putting Usyk in with Bellew rather than a talented cruiserweight or heavyweight. It’s pretty clear that there are better cruiserweights in the division than Bellew, starting with Mairis Briedis. Bellew is a good fighter, but there are a number of talents in the division that would likely beat him decisvely. Hearn has never shown interest in matching Bellew against these guys:
– Mairis Briedis
– Krzystof Glowacki
– Yunier Dorticos
– Murat Gassiev
– Beibut Shumenov
It’s true that a lot of boxing fans were wrong in picking against Bellew in his two fights against former 2-division world champion David Haye recently. Never the less, Haye was old at 38-years-old, dealing with injuries and many years of inactivity. This was not the prime Haye that boxing fans remembered from 2009. This was the injury-riddled, older version of Haye, who would have likely been beaten by any heavyweight or cruiserweight in the division. It’s nice that Bellew showed that he could beat Haye, but that doesn’t mean that these two victories proved that he’ll be able to do the same thing against a healthy, young and active Usyk on November 10. Usyk isn’t Haye.
“Ultimately he has to go through me. Everyone has to go through me,” Bellew said of Usyk.
It’s unclear what Bellew means when he says “everyone has to go through me.” Bellew isn’t the giant moat separating king Joshua from the invading armies that are looking to knock him off his throne. Bellew is just a former cruiserweight champion, who chose not to defend his WBC title when he was on the verge of having to face Mairis Brieidis, a fighter that gave Usyk fits in losing to him by a 12 round majority decision last January in the World Boxing Super Series tournament. Usyk has to go through Bellew only because he’s signed with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sports promotional company and he chose to put together an in house fight involving two of his fighters in his company. If not for that, Usyk would likely already be at heavyweight looking to earn a title shot by fighting someone like Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller, Dillian Whyte, Bryant Jennings, Adam Kownacki or Joseph Parker. Those are the guys that Usyk should be fighting to earn a title shot against Joshua, but this is boxing. Things are done differently in this sport than in other sports. You can argue that getting big fights in boxing often involves who a fighter is promoted and/or managed by. If you’re signed by a big promoter, nine times out of ten, they’re going to match you against their own fighters rather than reaching out to other promoters and doing the hard work of setting up fights with them.