By Elliot Foster
Eddie Hearn has paid tribute to Tony Bellew after he retired from boxing.
The former world cruiserweight champion bowed out of the sport after being knocked out by Oleksandr Usyk.
Bellew challenged the undefeated Ukrainian for the WBC, WBA Super, IBF, WBO and Ring Magazine world cruiserweight titles and was stopped in the eighth round by the World Boxing Super Series tournament winner.
And Hearn, the Matchroom Sport boss who guided the final six years of ‘Bomber’s’ glittering career, which also included British, Commonwealth and European honours, praised the 35-year-old after Saturday night’s showdown at Manchester Arena.
“I thought he won the first three rounds,” Hearn said. “Saturday was a reason to remember a great fighter and a great man. He has given everything to this sport.
“We are so proud of him. He will go down as a true great and is one of the best men I have ever met.
“He gave everything to the crowd. He can leave the sport knowing he fought the very best.”
Hearn, who signed Usyk to a co-promotional deal with K2 Promotions in a bid to make the Bellew fight, will now work alongside the Eastern European and his team to secure a showdown with WBA, IBF, IBO and WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
“It was a very emotional night,” Hearn added. "What a fight, I was just in awe watching that.
"In rounds one, two and three –– watching Tony Bellew out-box him for the first three rounds –– then Usyk coming back into the fight.
"I just never expected Bellew to be in a fight as high level as that, as skilful as that, as elite as that. I know he was tired and the weight affected him. Tony gambled with the right hand and got caught - but you saw the man.
"I don't know how he even got up. I was at the side of the ring trying to take the gum shield out –– then to see him get to his feet and tell the ref he was fine to go on.
"Just the heart of the man. He’s one of the best men you will ever meet.”