By Keith Idec
Now that Oleksandr Usyk and Tony Bellew both have expressed interest in fighting each other, Eddie Hearn is ready to get to work on making it happen.
Hearn told Sky Sports News on Sunday that negotiations will begin this week for an Usyk-Bellew bout. Usyk called out Bellew in the ring after defeating Murat Gassiev by unanimous decision in their cruiserweight title unification fight Saturday night in Moscow.
“That was a big win for Usyk and he has established himself as arguably the pound-for-pound No. 1 in boxing right now,” said Hearn, whose company, Matchroom Boxing, promotes Bellew. “Bellew versus Usyk is one of the best fights that can be made right now. Tony has felt fantastic up around [heavyweight] and I’m not sure he’ll be able to make cruiser again. But I know with Usyk’s desire to move to heavyweight that it certainly wouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
“I spoke to Tony on Saturday night and he made his intentions very clear. I also reached out to Usyk’s team and we will continue the dialogue this week.”
Ukraine’s Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) said in the ring following his convincing victory over Russia’s Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs) that he would move up to heavyweight if Bellew can’t make the cruiserweight limit of 200 pounds.
The 35-year-old Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) has been a heavyweight for each of his last two fights, a pair of technical-knockout victories over David Haye (28-4, 26 KOs). The Liverpool native went 7-0 and recorded five knockouts in cruiserweight bouts before moving up to heavyweight for more money to fight Haye, who was heavily favored to win their first fight.
Bellew weighed a career-high of 213½ pounds for his first fight against Haye, thus if Usyk moves up to heavyweight he won’t face a significant size disadvantage while battling Bellew. Even if Usyk has to move up, Bellew would be an underdog against a very skillful southpaw who easily out-boxed the hard-hitting Gassiev.
Usyk used his jab consistently, landed occasional combinations and defended himself well against Gassiev to win by huge margins on all three scorecards in the final of the World Boxing Super Series’ cruiserweight tournament (120-108, 119-109, 119-109). The 31-year-old Usyk retained his WBC and WBO titles and won the IBF and WBA championships from Gassiev.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.