This was a very interesting fight while it lasted.
The 1st couple of rounds started off slow, trying to pick up on each other’s maneuvers and tactics, to see if they could get an idea of the cards that they were playing with. 🇬🇧Tony Bellew orchestrated behind a subtle body attack, and a counter-right cross to keep 🇺🇦Oleksandr Usyk at bay, and Usyk was relying heavily on his right jab to keep Bellew in range while he was attempting to get his timing down. To my surprise, Usyk spent the bulk of the fight coming forward, while Bellew was using his footwork, showcasing some great upper body movement; I figured we would see their roles in reverse. Bellew was making it difficult early on for Usyk to initiate his attack.
As the rounds went on, Usyk got a little closer, and started relying on his ability to cut the ring off and exploit angles to get Bellew’s back to touch the ropes a little more, landing a few right hooks in close range, and Bellew was still finding some success here and there in landing his counter-punches. The tide of the fight seemed to change around the 7th round, where Usyk put the pressure on, and Tony, while his back was touching the ropes, and trapped in the corner at times went in a defensive shell, while Usyk started to find home with his power shots.
The 8th round felt like a slow culmination of what it ultimately amounted to, as Usyk started to take over. Oleksandr then finally landed the boom with the straight left hand right on the button and dropped Bellew on his back. Tony was attempting to get up and beat the count, but the Referee didn’t like what he seen, so he stopped the fight as he was getting up, resulting in an 8th round TKO for the still Undisputed Cruiserweight King. This is the 1st time in over a decade that an Undisputed Champion made a successful title defense of all of his belts (since Roy Jones fought Clinton Woods back in 2002). The only question some people posed about Usyk and his skill-set wasn’t his power (he obviously had it), but whether he had one-punch type of knockout power in his arsenal in case there is a time he really needed it. After today, it is safe to say that the big punch is there, especially considering that Bellew had a brief stint at Heavyweight and was taken out by the big left hand. Speaking of Heavyweights, that also bodes well for Usyk in the near future when he does decide to make the leap up to the division, but for now, he remains King in the domain in which he occupies. This performance, along with other big wins against elite Cruiserweights Murat Gassiev & Mairis Breidis this year makes him a lock for Fighter of the Year.
I would like to take a little time out to give Bellew some props and reflect a little bit upon his career as he is now officially hanging the gloves up. Bellew is one of those guys that if we had a cloning machine known to man, boxing would greatly benefit if you have a few of him in every division. Throughout his career, he was honest, gutsy, worked his ass off to get to where he ended up getting to, and as a result of it, he overachieved in some ways. His 1st title-shot was against Nathan Cleverly at Light-Heavyweight back in 2011, and although he took the fight on short notice, he put up a very impressive performance, albeit losing via majority decision.
Upon getting more recognition, he continued forward, fighting Isaac Chilemba to a draw, then defeating Chilemba in the immediate re-match. He had his opportunity against Adonis Stevenson, but he fell short. With his confidence still in-tact, he continued on his quest of becoming Champion. Three years after his close loss to Cleverly, he redeemed himself by defeating Cleverly in the re-match by split decision. He eventually moved up to the Cruiserweight division, where he fought quality opponent Ilunga Makabu for the vacant WBC title, and his dream of becoming a world Champion came to fruition when he knocked Makabu out cold.
Moving up to Heavyweight, he targeted former Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion David Haye, and defeated him via TKO, however Haye suffered an injury mid-fight. In efforts of putting the questions to rest, Bellew fought him again and defeated Haye for a second time, without any infractions, making that the most significant win of his career. Saving the best for last, he probably boxed the best he had overall in his career against Oleksandr Usyk, to where you see how serious he took the occasion and gave his all. He ultimately fell short, but there’s nothing to be ashamed about with the type of effort that he put forth. Hats off to a good, memorable career for the ‘Bomber’, Tony Bellew.