Tony Bellew is as familiar as anyone with Oleksandr Usyk’s uncommon technical capabilities.
The former undisputed cruiserweight champion eventually picked apart Bellew and stopped him in the eighth round in November 2018. Their fight for Usyk’s IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO titles was close entering that fateful eighth round, but the left-handed Usyk blasted Bellew with a straight left hand that sent Bellew to the canvas and abruptly ended their scheduled 12-rounder at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Bellew believes Usyk will have much more difficulty dealing with legitimate heavyweight contenders because the 6-feet-3, 215-pound Usyk isn’t used to the physical nature of that division. England’s Bellew discussed just how troublesome Usyk will find fighting inside during a recent video interview with promoter Eddie Hearn and Dereck Chisora, Usyk’s next opponent, posted on Matchroom Boxing’s YouTube channel.
“The problem will come when he gets up close,” Bellew said, “and just the pure physicality of the heavyweights when you get on the inside.”
Ukraine’s Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) and England’s Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs) were scheduled to meet May 23 at O2 Arena in London. Their fight was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Hearn, Chisora and Usyk expect that fight to be rescheduled.
The Chisora contest will be just the second at heavyweight for Usyk since he became the undisputed cruiserweight champion. Usyk moved up to heavyweight after he beat Bellew, who moved back down from heavyweight to cruiserweight to challenge Usyk following back-to-back, technical-knockout victories over former WBA heavyweight champion David Haye.
“Oleksandr Usyk, in my opinion, is gonna go into the heavyweight division,” Bellew said, “and look to capitalize on his boxing skills, look to use his speed and range to win fights. He’s not going to, like I said, he’s not the biggest puncher. And people will say, ‘Why would you say that? He stopped you.’ Listen mate, if my nan would’ve hit me in that eighth round, she’d have put me out as well. And nan’s 93 years old. I was so exhausted in round eight. But it’s not that he’s hard-hitting. He’s extremely accurate and he’s extremely – he’s brilliant technically. So, that builds. It becomes a culmination then of how effective he is, and if he’s allowed to keep peppering you and peppering you, then nailing you, in the end it will have an effect.
“But, if he can’t dictate the pace and he can’t dictate the range, he’s not gonna be able to keep peppering you. And I don’t think – that’s gonna be his biggest problem with [Chisora]. [Chisora] is not gonna stand there and just let him pepper him. [Chisora’s] not gonna admire him and give him an enormous amount of respect. Yes, he says he respects him as far as the things he’s won and who he is and the person that he is. But when that bell goes, mate, ain’t no friends in there. Ain’t no respect. It’s kill or be killed. And I don’t like to use that phrase, but that’s the way it is, mate. You’ve gotta eat and you’ve gotta go for them. And [Chisora] knows more than anyone how you’ve gotta go into the lion’s den sometimes and be willing to not just back up.”
The 33-year-old Usyk, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, stopped 38-year-old heavyweight veteran Chazz Witherspoon (38-4, 29 KOs) after the seventh round of his last bout, October 12 at DePaul University’s Wintrust Arena in Chicago. The 36-year-old Chisora has nine losses, but the Zimbabwe-born, London-based boxer has faced a long list of top heavyweights and is considered a significant step up in competition from Witherspoon.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.