Who will be undisputed cruiserweight World Champion?
Ten years after his two-minute victory against Hastings Rasani, Tony Bellew is set to shake Manchester Arena in what he’s called the final fight of his career. With a nearly eleven year-long career, and only 2 out of his 33 fights definitively lost, Bellew’s goal is to become the undisputed cruiserweight World Champion, a title that is currently held by opponent Oleksandr Usyk.
An undisputed cruiserweight World Champion needs to hold a number of premium boxing titles simultaneously. From 1920 to 1963, these titles were only the ones held by the New York State Athletic Commission and the World Boxing Association (then known as the National Boxing Association), however Bellew has a bigger fight ahead of him as undisputed boxing champions in 2018 need to hold titles by the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council, International Boxing Federation, and World Boxing Organisation.
At four years his junior, Oleksandr Usyk is the first boxer in history to win all four major world championships in the cruiserweight weight class. The last time all four titles were held simultaneously was in the welterweight division, by Norwegian boxer Cecilia Braekhus, in 2014.
Usyk’s accolades are nothing to sniff at: at only 31, he is already an Olympic gold medallist, a gold-medal European Champion, and a World Champion gold medallist. At 26 Usyk had signed with the Klitschko brothers to fight professionally in the cruiserweight division making his debut by pulverising Felipe Romero in 2013.
Usyk continued to rise up the ranks, gaining the first of his world titles in 2016 by defeating undefeated Polish boxer Krzysztof Głowacki after 12 rounds. Głowacki, with 26 bouts under his belt and 0 losses, landed just 76 of his 278 shots, and the fight was called at 2:53 with a unanimous victory in Usyk’s favour.
Usyk won the other three titles during the inaugural World Boxing Super series, competing against eight other boxers to win the titles, the Muhammed Ali trophy, and US$10 million in winnings.
Although experienced, Usyk’s skill really shines through when he’s on the defensive. While fast and energetic, Usyk takes time to adjust to the pace and speed to a fight, and many of his bouts are characterised by a slow beginning, and then a torrential violence, usually leading to a TKO. Usyk specialises in diffusing fights, letting this opponent become a greater and greater threat, sloppy in his confidence, until he is stopped in place by one of Usyk’s devastating punches.
This said, Tony Bellew is not a competitor to take lightly. He doesn’t have Usyk’s accolades – Tony Bellow doesn’t have an Olympic gold medal, or four World Championship titles. But what he lacks for in glory, Bellew makes up in experience. Usyk’s raw power and formidable talent is something to consider, however Bellew has only been beaten twice in his career, and has won his last five fights, usually with a complete TKO.
What Bellew does well is timing, something that Usyk has historically suffered with (his battle against Mchunu, for example, was categorised by esoteric timing). Bellew waits to strike, and when he does, he hits hard and heavy, sending his opponents reeling. In his last five fights, Bellew has thrown off his opponents with the first punch, and while the fight typically lasts for longer, Bellew always wins out in the end. He drops his opponents immediately, and while they’re struggling to recover, paces himself to strike them down while they’re already flagging.
It also isn’t the first time that Bellew has been the underdog. When fighting for the Commonwealth championship against Ovill McKenzie, Bellew was knocked down twice within seconds of the start, and still managed to win. Bellew also won a victory against Bolonti for a WBC silver title despite being injured and defeated former world title challenger Matesusz Masternak for the European championship.
With it being the last fight before he retires, Bellew is sure to break out all of the stops to make sure he walks away with not only the four titles, but also the acclaimed ‘The Ring’ title, and lineal cruiserweight titles.
Check out Mr Green’s odds for the match. It’s widely agreed that if Bellew doesn’t drop Usyk, Usyk will drop Bellew. Who will do it first?
If Bellew wins over Usyk – as Bellew believes he will – then he’ll become only the fourth person in history to be the undisputed cruiserweight champion, following O’Neill Bell, Evander Holyfield, and Oleksandr Usyk. It’s an honour that neither boxer is taking lightly, and come fight day on November 10th, sparks are sure to fly as Usyk and Bellew work to make their mark on cruiserweight boxing history.