By Shaun Brown
BoxingScene.com caught up with promoter Eddie Hearn about the possibility of his man Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) challenging the new undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs).
On Saturday night in Moscow Usyk produced one of the performances of 2018 to outclass and dominate Murat Gassiev with a wide 12-round decision (120-108, 119-109, 119-109). Displaying beautiful footwork and blistering hand speed, for a man of his size, Gassiev had no answer to the Ukrainian who also walked away as World Boxing Super Series champion with the prestigious Muhammad Ali trophy, given to the tournament winner, in his grasp along with all four belts he now holds at cruiserweight.
In the post-fight interview conducted by British commentator Ronald McIntosh Usyk said “Hey, Tony Bellew are you ready?”
The challenge, accompanied by his trademark menacing smile, was followed by: “If he doesn’t want to drop down (to cruiserweight), I’ll happily go up to meet him. I’ll just eat extra pasta!”
Bellew, the current WBC Emeritus cruiserweight champion, won the official WBC crown in May 2016 stopping Illunga Makabu in three rounds and wasted little time in giving his response on social media to being called out. “Usyk I was BORN READY!! Let’s get this done!!,” declared the 35-year-old, who in his last two fights has defeated David Haye at heavyweight and has in recent weeks made no secret of the fact he was willing to face the Usyk-Gassiev winner.
Not to be outdone Usyk fired back with “I’M ALSO READY!”
“Tony Bellew is as game as they come,” Hearn told ‘Scene.
“When Usyk called him out straight after the fight it lit the torch paper and within 30 minutes he was asking me to make the fight. I’ve already reached out to Usyk’s team, so we will see where it goes.
“I haven’t seen the fight but to shut out Gassiev is hugely impressive in his backyard. I thought Usyk got hit a little too much against (Mairis) Briedis so thought Gassiev’s power may tell but it was a comprehensive win by all accounts. Tony is improving with every fight and is punching harder than ever – I appreciate he may be an outsider, but you’d be crazy to rule him out in this fight.”
Hearn added that the fight may take place in October or November, should it get made.
“We are restricted a little on venues. We need as many seats as possible but it’s early days.”
Earlier in the week Hearn had said he did not think the money was there for a fight between Bellew and the winner of Usyk-Gassiev, adding that he would not let Bellew take the fight for a third of what he earned against David Haye.
“Before this fight I said there was three-real options. (Andre) Ward, (Adonis) Stevenson and (Tyson) Fury. The Usyk v Gassiev winner was there but my worry was that the money wouldn’t weigh up. I think after last night that has changed but again we need to see Usyk’s expectations also.”
Boxing fans are keen to see Usyk move up to heavyweight, with many believing that he is ready to challenge the likes of Anthony Joshua – promoted by Hearn, and Deontay Wilder. Hearn told ‘Scene that he sees a Bellew-Usyk fight taking place at heavyweight given how comfortable the Brit is at 15 stone plus.
“I’m guessing Usyk’s long-term goal is to make his money up with the big boys. He certainly has the skill to do so, whether he will be overcome with size time will tell.”