Joshua wants Bellew to defeat Usyk
By Tim Royner: Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) faces unbeaten IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) this Saturday night on Sky Box Office, and heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is pulling for ‘The Bomber’ to get the victory. Joshua is cheering for Bellew to win, but that’s probably not going to help him beat the 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk.
Joshua is already sensing that Usyk is coming for him, and will soon be a threat to his legacy. If Usyk unravels the Joshua puzzle like he did against Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev, it’s going to ruin his career and likely hurt his money-making potential. You can expect that Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn will stall the Joshua vs. Usyk fight from happening as long as possible if he sees the Ukrainian as a real threat to the gravy train. Hearn has been dragging his feet when it comes to matching Joshua against Deontay Wilder. Will he do the same thing with Usyk when he comes for his biggest money maker in his Matchroom Boxing stable?
There are levels in boxing, and Bellew is about to find out the hard way that his past wins over carefully selected opponents won’t help him against the best cruiserweight in division. Usyk isn’t carefully chosen. He’s the real thing.
It’s not in Joshua’s best interest to want Bellew, 35, to win the fight, in view of the fact that Usyk is the guy that will make him huge money in the future fighting him.
Win or lose on Saturday, Bellew is expected to retire after the fight. Even if Bellew wins and continues his career, he’s not going to fight Joshua, who he sees as too big and too powerful for him. Bellew is on friendly terms with Joshua.
Joshua pulling for Bellew to defeat Usyk,31, will be interpreted by some boxing fans as another example of the 6’6″ heavyweight champion being relucatant to fight the best in boxing. Joshua hasn’t shown a great desire to fight World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Deontay ‘Bronze Bomber’ Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs)
“I really want him to win, so my passion is with him, regardless,” Joshua said to skysports.com. “Then, from an entertaining point of view, Usyk is like a perfect boxer, so I hope Bellew is working on his counter-punches as well, because that’s the way to knock him out – let him tippy-tap and then explode.”
A lot of fans think Usyk is going to beat Joshua when the time comes for them to face each other. Joshua almost lost his last fight against 39-year-old Alexander Povetkin after getting hurt in the 2nd round. Joshua has had furhter close calls in fights against Carlos Takam, Wladimir Klitschko and Dillian Whyte. Joshua is muscular, but just as vulnerable as Wladimir was during his reign as a world champion.
”As we’ve seen Bellew can counter-punch and he’s got a dirty left hook, and if he can land that I think he’ll do well,” Joshua said.
Joshua says “if he can land” in talking about Bellew, but it’s not likely that’s going to happen often enough for him to beat Usyk, who isn’t old and shot like Tony’s last opponent David Haye. Bellew has been winning fights with his left hook against flawed fighters in Haye, BJ Flores and Illunga Makabu. On Saturday, Bellew is going to find out what happens when he faces a fighter that’s not flawed, injured and old when he squares off with Usyk.
Bellew’s promoter Eddie Hearn has done a bang up job of selecting weak and vulnerable fighters for him to beat to turn him into a star in the UK. Hearn has been careful not to match Bellew against anyone too good for him, and he’s responded well in beating the fighters that his promoter has fed him. We’ve seen Bellew beat the likes of Illunga Makabu, David Haye, BJ Flores, Mateusz Masternak, Ivica Bacurin, Arturs Kulikauskis, Julio Cesar Dos Santos, Nathan Cleverly and Valery Brudov. What we haven’t seen is Bellew put in against the cream of the cruiserweight division. Hearn has done his job of matching Bellew against the vulnerable guys, and on Saturday we’re going to see the end result of what happens when a promoter stops protecting his fighter and throws him into the deep end of the pool. No amount of wishful thinking by Joshua is going to change Bellew’s destiny. what we’re likely going to see is what would have happened if Hearn had matched Bellew tough years ago when he started promoting him. Instead of protecting Bellew, Hearn is going to let him see how harsh the cruiserweight division can be when a promoter stops protecting his fighter and lets him fend for himself against the best.
It’s certainly true that Bellew can win the fight if he lands one of his best power shots right on the button of Usyk. Despite that, Usyk has been in with bigger punchers than Bellew and come out in one piece with the victory. Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev are both bigger punchers than Bellew, and Usyk beat them both. Artur Beterbiev is a bigger puncher than Bellew, and Usyk beat him twice in the amateurs. Michael Hunter punches with the same power as Bellew, and he lost to Usyk as well. As you can see, punchers are a dime a dozen in the cruiserweight division. You’ve got to have more than power to excel at the upper levels of the division.
You can say that one of the main reasons that Bellew is retiring now is because his run of good luck, thanks to the match-making done for his benefit by Hearn, is about to run out. If Bellew wasn’t retiring, he would be expected to fight against the lions in the cruiserweight division. That means that after Usyk moves up to heavyweight, Bellew would need to fight the likes of Gassiev, Yunier Dortico, Murat Gassiev and Krzysztof Glowack. Those guys would all likely beat Bellew, and expose him the same way Adonis Stevenson did in 2013. Although Bellew’s boxing fans would likely blame his age for him losing to those fighters, the truth would be that he’s no longer being protected by his promoter Hearn. When a promoter stops protecting a fighter, they generally sink to the bottom if they lack the talent. The cream always rises to the top. When Usyk moves up in weight, Briedis, Dorticos and Gassiev will be the ones going after the vacated belts. Bellew obviously doesn’t want any of that hard work against those fighters, so he’ll go off into the subset to the safety of his retirement rather than risk having his legacy tarnished with loss after loss to the big three – Briedis, Gassiev and Dorticos – of the cruiserweight division.
Bellew wants his fight with Usyk to be a war on Saturday, knowing that it’s his only chance of winning. Bellew wants to beat Usyk, take his four world titles at cruiserweight, and then ride out of town into retirement as the unified champion. Bellew would retire on top the way that Carl Froch did four years ago in making big money in defeating George Groves in consecutive fights in a domestic level showdown. But in Froch’s case, he didn’t bow out of boxing fighting the best. The best at the time at super middleweight was Andre ‘SOG’ Ward, who beat Froch in the Super Six Series tournament final in 2011. Froch didn’t want to mix it up with Ward a second time after he tasted defeat against him, so he finished his career against a young and inexperienced Groves. What Bellew is doing in facing Usyk is admirable if not late in the game. Bellew should have fought Usyk years ago rather than waiting until 2018 to take this fight.
If Bellew does beat Usyk, he’ll likely continue his career for a rematch against him. With the money that Bellew can make in a second fight against Usyk, it would be too hard for him to pass up.