By Keith Idec
As soon as Oleksandr Usyk mentioned Tony Bellew’s name July 21, Bellew knew that they would fight next.
Bellew believes Usyk called him out because the unbeaten Ukrainian considers a fight against him a high-reward, low-risk proposition.
Handicappers seemingly agree, as they’ve installed Usyk as at least a 7-1 favorite over Bellew entering their cruiserweight title fight November 10 in Manchester, England (Sky Sports; DAZN).
The often-overlooked Bellew wouldn’t want it any other way.
“The more you write me off, the more I wanna fight,” Bellew said Monday during a press conference in Manchester to officially announce their fight. “We will see. I’m going up against the monster, the man no one really wants to fight, the man who just dismantles fighters and beats them easily. And make no mistake, he’s looking past me already. He might say he’s not, but he’s already asking Eddie, ‘Who am I gonna fight at heavyweight?’
“And he’s gonna look at me today and the same thing, but there’s only one difference when he looks in my eyes – he passed a comment after Saturday’s little staredown, and the comment is he thinks I’m arrogant. So he said he believes I am arrogant. But the only thing is, it is not arrogance that he sees. For the first time in his whole career, he sees a man looking back at him who believes he can win, and not a man who believes he’s just going to lose.”
The 31-year-old Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) is the undisputed cruiserweight champion after defeating Murat Gassiev by unanimous decision July 21 in Moscow. Usyk’s wide win in the World Boxing Super Series final enabled this technically superior southpaw to retain his WBC and WBO cruiserweight titles and take the IBF and WBA championships from Russia’s Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs).
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist previously beat former WBC champ Mairis Briedis (24-1, 18 KOs) and ex-WBO champ Marco Huck (41-5-1, 28 KOs) in the WBSS tournament.
Liverpool’s Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) won his last two bouts at heavyweight against former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion David Haye (28-4, 26 KOs). Before stopping Haye twice, the 35-year-old Bellew went 7-0 as a cruiserweight after suffering a sixth-round TKO loss to WBC light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson (29-1-1, 24 KOs) in November 2013.
“As great as those other fighters are that he’s faced,” Bellew said, “as good as they are, that he’s faced and beaten, not one of them goes in there with the heart and the belief that they’re going to beat him. And that changes on November the 10th. I don’t just think or believe, I know I’m gonna find a way. I always do.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.