Fight Picks: Aleksandr Usyk vs. Tony Bellew
The supremely talented Aleksandr Usyk will put his The Ring Magazine, IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO cruiserweight championships on the line against former titleholder Tony Bellew in an eagerly anticipated showdown at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, on Saturday (live on DAZN, 1 p.m. ET/ 10 a.m. PT).
Usyk (15-0, 11 knockouts) won the inaugural World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament to become the undisputed champion and while his long-term future appears to be at heavyweight, he decided to take to the road and face big punching Liverpudlian Bellew.
Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) held the WBC 200-pound title but decided to step up to boxing’s glamour division and face former cruiserweight champion and heavyweight titlist David Haye, winning both their money-spinning fights. The 35-year-old Scouser has openly said he’s not big enough to compete with the best heavyweights in the world and was only too happy to return to his best weight and meet Usyk.
Usyk is widely considered to be the more skilled practitioner here, while Bellew is the puncher. Usually home advantage would be a key point but Usyk is well-versed in fighting on the road, winning all his titles on enemy soil. Can Bellew take Usyk out of his comfort zone? Bellew is vastly improved from his light heavyweight days but is he improved enough to match Usyk’s skills? Bellew hasn’t made 200 pounds in two years. Will he make weight without depleting himself too much?
Online gambling group William Hill lists Usyk as a 1-6 (-600) favorite, while Bellew is priced at 9-2 (+450).
Here’s how the experts see it:
THE RING MAGAZINE/ RINGTV.COM
RYAN SONGALIA: USYK, MAJORITY DECISION
I’m picking Usyk by decision. It’s just his time now. It’s very rare to see one of the top all-around skills fighters in the sport being a cruiserweight but if there’s one thing the WBSS has done already to make an impact on the sport, it’s to showcase just how well-skilled he is as a fighter. He’s like a cruiserweight Vasiliy Lomachenko in some ways, how he turns his opponents and changes speed and impact of his blows to keep his opponents off-balance. There are a lot of heavyweights that Usyk can beat too. Bellew is enjoying his best success after the David Haye fights but Usyk is a far stiffer challenge than an older Haye.
GARETH A. DAVIES: USYK, UNANIMOUS DECISION
Huge opportunity for Tony Bellew, who will give his all in this fight, his swan song, says the Liverpudlian. Bellew cannot be written off, as he has proven so many times that his will and abilities have been long underrated. My feeling is that Usyk’s ring smarts and work-rate will win him the fight over 12 rounds and he will retain his titles. But Bellew will be dangerous with his attacks to the very end. Verdict: Usyk the victor by unanimous points decision.
LEE GROVES: USYK, UNANIMOUS DECISION
Fighting Bellew in a supercharged home country atmosphere is a tough ask but if anyone is equipped physically and emotionally to handle it, it is Usyk. After all, he won the WBSS tournament (as well as the undisputed cruiserweight championship) by beating Marco Huck in Germany, Mairis Briedis in Latvia and Murat Gassiev in Russia. He and Bellew stand 6-foot-3 and, according to BoxRec.com, Usyk will have a four-inch reach advantage and he will benefit from the southpaw factor. Best yet, Usyk has the technical skill to address Bellew’s explosive power and the emotional stability to address Bellew’s enormous self-belief. Bellew won’t make things easy but I believe Usyk will adjust and exit the ring with a successful outcome.
MARTY MULCAHEY: USYK, UNANIMOUS DECISION
I am probably not alone on this list in picking against Bellew in previous bouts but think I have the right boxer this time, choosing Usyk. The best reason is that Usyk is simply the better boxer; given both men are the same size and Usyk is three years younger (with a reach advantage), the Ukrainian is presented with even more advantages. Bellew has more miles on his boxing odometer as well and given Usyk seems to enjoy fighting in his opponents’ backyards, that advantage is also taken away from a Bellew I have come to admire, despite picking against him. Speed, timing, footwork, pedigree, southpaw stance, ring activity and other intangibles like weight-cutting all favor Usyk. I make Usyk the winner by wide decision.
MICHAEL WOODS: USYK, UNANIMOUS DECISION
The temptation when assessing most anything is to weigh heavily, perhaps too heavily, evidence accumulated most recently. If you watched Aleksandr Usyk’s most recent fight, against Murat Gassiev, you had to be wowed by his skill set. And certainly your eyes weren’t deceiving you. But know that part of the equation there was that Gassiev isn’t the clever craftsman Tony Bellew is, not probably half as clever as Bellew is…Mostly that has to do with experience. Of having seen it all, then darn close to it. Bellew has seen darn close to it all…That said he hasn’t been in with anyone as technically sound in the realm of pugilism as Usyk. Therefore he will lose on points but have moments of respectability because he’s a super-smart vet with a basket full of intangibles, like the will to win, grit, etc. Usyk, unanimous decision, 8-4 or so.
RON BORGES: USYK, DECISION
Tony Bellew will give Aleksandr Usyk more than he expects but not more than he can handle. Bellew is a tough out. He is a hard man and a guy who comes to fight. He will have his moments against Usyk but we’re talking about two classes of fighters. One is gritty, experienced and willing. The other is skillful, self-assured and technically sound. In the end, skill will win out over will…but not without a fight. Aleksandr Usyk by a decision that won’t be in dispute but also won’t be as lopsided as some think.
NORM FRAUENHEIM: USYK, DECISION
Tony Bellew has promised to take Usyk’s soul. Maybe but he won’t take his titles. Bellew is as clever and resilient as just about anybody in the business. He’ll also have an advantage that could be significant if the scorecards are close in the late rounds. The cruiserweight’s U.K. fans will be there, loud and powerful. Adversity surely awaits Usyk. Bellew’s experience and loyal fans might test Usyk, taking him to a place he’s never been but the Ukrainian possesses a dynamic skill set and some resilience of his own, enough of both to win a close, solid decision over Bellew.
FRANCISCO SALAZAR: USYK, UNANIMOUS DECISION
Tony Bellew will give it his all early on in the fight. He will find some success early on but Aleksandr Usyk is such a talented prizefighter. Bellew will have home-field advantage but that will matter little to Usyk. The undisputed cruiserweight champion will begin breaking Bellew down in the middle rounds before the fight ends in round 10, although the fight could also go the distance with Usyk winning a wide decision.
TOM GRAY: USYK, UNANIMOUS DECISION
I will never write Tony Bellew off in a fight, including this one, but I must edge toward Usyk. Bellew has weaponry which will trouble the champion: the jab, the straight right, the left hook to body and head delivered with power will prevent Usyk from finding the same rhythm he settled into against mid-range puncher Murat Gassiev. Against Mairis Briedis and Michael Hunter, Usyk was touchable and I expect Bellew to have real success. The flipside to this coin is Usyk’s ring craft, athleticism and volume. We won’t have seen the best of the Ukrainian southpaw, to this point, and my hunch is he’ll bring things out of the locker that nobody, including the Bellew camp, expected. However I foresee a much closer fight than what many people are predicting.
ANSON WAINWRIGHT: USYK, UNANIMOUS DECISION
Usyk holds every advantage here with the possible exception of power. Bellew has the proverbial puncher’s chance. That said Usyk is sublimely gifted, used to fighting away from home in hostile territory and this will be no different. I expect a lively atmosphere in a rare instance in which a scouser gets a big cheer when he enters an arena in Manchester. However those cheers will be less and less frequent through out the fight. Usyk to win a wide unanimous decision.
JOLENE MIZZONE (MATCHMAKER, MAIN EVENTS): USYK, UNANIMOUS DECISION
I think that Usyk is the better skilled fighter and much more active fighter. I am a believer that a active fighter is a successful fighter. I think that Usyk will control the fight the whole time. Usyk by unanimous decision.
CARL MORETTI (VICE PRESIDENT OF TOP RANK): USYK, TKO 9
Usyk. Easy. Probably TKO 9. Usyk won’t be intimidated by the hometown crowd of Bellew.
KATHY DUVA (CEO, MAIN EVENTS): USYK, KO
I am picking Usyk by KO. Usyk is a much bigger guy than Bellew. While I think it will be an entertaining fight, Usyk is simply the better fighter. He is younger, fresher, more skilled and, I suspect, the harder puncher. On top of that, he tends to control every round of every fight he is in. And with the fight in Manchester, Usyk will be particularly focused on getting a knockout. I think that Usyk bests Bellew in every category.
DUKE MCKENZIE (FORMER THREE-DIVISION WORLD TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST): USYK, TKO 10
How do you solve a problem like Usyk with no obvious flaws? Usyk looks unbeatable. Bellew hasn’t fought at cruiserweight for several years now, so his first problem isn’t Usyk but making the weight, then beat the slick-punching southpaw. Like he doesn’t have enough problems to solve, Bellew is at the end of his career now, so he will go out with a bang. Usyk inside 10 rounds.
TOM LOEFFLER (PROMOTER, 360 PROMOTIONS, GGG PROMOTIONS): USYK, TKO
I am naturally biased toward Usyk, having promoted two of his fights in the U.S. and having a close relationship with Alexander Krassyuk (of K2 Promotions). With that being said, I don’t think there is anyone on Usyk’s level after his performance in the WBSS, dominating his opponents the way he did. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tony and what he accomplished against Haye in his two fights at heavyweight. My prediction would be late-rounds stoppage for Usyk.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI (FORMER TWO-DIVISION WORLD TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST, SHOWTIME): USYK, TKO
I think Bellew will come to fight. He always does but this is a very tough fight. I can’t see Usyk losing it, see a late stoppage, maybe mid-rounds. Usyk, to me, is, pound-for-pound, one of the best in the entire sport and the best in today’s very good and competitive cruiserweight division. His win at the WBSS, in a tournament that included some excellent fighters, really impressed me. I picked him to lose against Gassiev but he instead made easy work of him, giving a thorough boxing lesson. If I’m Bellew, I start fast and give it everything I can, as giving Usyk time to set the pace won’t work, especially at Tony’s age. But Tony has power to be respected, so letting go of those missiles often and early on may force Usyk to respect him and I think Tony can go mid-to-late rounds. Drawback to throwing frequent missiles is you will fatigue quicker and that’s another reason why I see Tony getting stopped, if he can’t land one of those big shots. Regardless Tony can be a very live underdog in this one and he will live off the crowd and be spurred on by them. I think the crowd can be an important weapon. Tony is no stranger to digging down in tough moments and guys like that thrive off of and breathe extra energy off of the crowds. From what I know, Liverpool is not far from Manchester, so the boisterous scousers can give Tony that extra push and, win or lose, make it memorable for all.
ROBERT DIAZ (MATCHMAKER, GOLDEN BOY PROMOTIONS): USYK, TKO 8
I like the fact that Bellew has defied the odds time and time again and he is elusive and has shown heart and willingness to fight the better competition and take challenges. With that said, I believe he has bitten off more than he can chew in this one. Haye was bigger but also older and not the fighter he was years ago. Usyk is not only bigger but he is in his prime and strong. I believe he will use his size and strength to tire Tony in the early rounds and eventually stop him inside eight rounds. This will be a more exciting fight because of Bellew.
BRAD GOODMAN (MATCHMAKER, TOP RANK): USYK, DECISION
I think it’s a real interesting fight. I think you have to favor Usyk on just the overall natural ability but Bellew keeps proving doubters wrong. If bellew doesn’t get caught up in that chasing, following Usyk around and makes the fight and applies constant pressure, I think it plays out like the Briedis fight. Close but Usyk by decision.
FRANCIS WARREN (PROMOTER): USYK, UNANIMOUS DECISION
I was ringside for Usyk-Gassiev and witnessed something very special. He boxed Gassiev’s ears off for 12 rounds in his own backyard. I believe the same happens again versus Bellew. Bellew has proved people wrong on several occasions but this one is a step too far. Usyk by unanimous decision for me.
VICTOR SILVA (TV ANALYST, COMBATE SPACE): USYK, UNANIMOUS DECISION
Usyk vs. Bellew will be one of the best fights; I think. Both fighters are great. The experience will play in Bellew’s favor. He’s been here and done that but Usyk has to show that all his improvement is for real and that he is mentally tough enough to face one of the best fighters. For me it’s Usyk’s time; I see him winning by unanimous decision.
20-0, all in favor of Usyk.
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