By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
TONY BELLEW admits he has retired from boxing because his body can no longer handle the gruelling training camps.
But he left with a warning for his final foe not to take on the “giants” in the heavyweight division.
The former WBC cruiserweight champion was knocked out by the brilliant Oleksandr Usyk in the eighth round of a thrilling clash on Saturday night at the Manchester Arena.
Bellew, 35, dared to be great by taking on the undisputed king of the division but came up short in his 34th and final fight.
The Liverpool fighter claimed before his last outing that he would reveal the real reason he is retiring.
“I can’t take it no more,” he said. “My body can’t take it.
“That’s the third time now something has happened in training camp.
“But that played no part in the result. I lost to the better man. It is not an excuse.”
Bellew started superbly in a clash he was expected to be outclassed in and was ahead on two of the three judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
But Usyk had taken control of the bout after the third round with his hand speed and fantastic footwork allowing him to land big shots.
The finish was stunning as the champion stiffened Bellew up with a left hook before the same punch sent the Liverpool fighter over and referee Terry O’Connor waved off the count at seven.
Usyk now plans to give up his WBA, IBF, WBO and WBC cruiserweight titles to move up to heavyweight in pursuit of a clash with Britain’s Anthony Joshua.
But Bellew warned him against going after the big men at the higher weight.
“He could be the greatest cruiserweight ever,” said Bellew.
“I only hope he doesn’t go to the giants, they are the only people who could beat him because they might be too much.
“But anyone around 6ft 3 he will ping them and make people look fools.”
Bellew was emotional afterwards in the post-fight press conference as he claimed he felt like a “failure” for losing.
He broke down in down in tears but his wife, Rachael, soon put him right.
The Liverpool fighter has won British, Commonwealth and European titles as a pro while he claimed world honours at the home of his beloved Everton in 2016.
He also beat David Haye twice, ensuring his final three fights earned him around £15m.
Promoter Eddie Hearn said: “He told me it would haunt him if he hadn’t taken this fight. He could have retired with a win, but everyone would have said why didn’t you fight Usyk?
“Now he can retire and he will get more respect for having taken the fight and lost than not fighting.”
Bellew added: “I sit here as a loser but I won in life. When I was expelled from school I had nothing and nowhere to go.
“Now me and my three boys are multi-millionaires and I have earned every single penny by punching people in the face.
“I only created the name Tony Bellew to make my old fella proud. I’ve never been Tony Bellew, I’ve always been Anthony.
“Tony Bellew died tonight, Anthony Bellew comes back alive, that little b*****d who was expelled from school. I want reality back.
“I hope people remember me for my night at Goodison.”