By: Oliver McManus
This Saturday witnesses a monumental moment in boxing as the Manchester Arena plays fiddle to Oleksandr Usyk’s “all-the-belt’s” defence against Tony Bellew who seeks to do the unthinkable and claim one of the biggest upsets in memory. Join DAZN free for 30 days and live-stream fight night anywhere!
Bellew, who has repeatedly upset the odds, will look to produce the performance of a life-time against the undefeated, undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world but does so in front of 20,000 partisan fans.
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Having recently defeated David Haye across two ill-tempered bouts there was speculation that Bellew was set for a three fight cash-out at heavyweight but the chance of history came a calling.
Make no mistake, the odds are stacked against Bellew and few outside of the inner circle believe there is a realistic chance of an upset. For Bellew to come triumphant he will need to impose a disruptive game-plan that nips Usyk’s technical superiority in the bud before the Ukrainian can really get into the swing of things.
For want of a better word Bellew will need to bully the undisputed champion, stand square in the centre of the ring and just throw everything and the kitchen sink – what’s he got to lose? Precisely nothing, there is nothing to lose for the home fighter, no-one expects him to win.
Let’s turn attention to the main man, then – an amateur who claimed glory at every turn and has looked flawless since turning professional. People will say that Bellew’s best chance is to land a flush punch but Usyk has taken shots from Murat Gassiev and Mairis Briedis as though they were tickling him.
Technically outstanding, Usyk is one of the most well-rounded boxers who, whilst capable of brawling and throwing fire, can make even the closest challengers look average. Gassiev, for many, was the toughest test for Usyk and he absolutely walked through the Russian contender.
The agility of, countryman, Vasyl Lomachenko and the power of, say, Anthony Joshua, Usyk is sublime in everything he does. Harsh as it sounds, heart won’t win you fights against boxers of such calibre, it takes a different level to be able to mix it with Oleksandr Usyk.
The fairytale ending would have Bellew winning – the real life Rocky story – but Usyk has seen and conquered every challenge that has preceded Bellew. Logic suggests he takes this in his stride and his continues on his quest as one of the greatest, purest, fighters of all time.
Anthony Crolla fights in the co-main event with the Manchester-man looking to become mandatory challenger to, WBA champion, Vasyl Lomachenko. Standing in the way of that status stands Daud Yordan – a 31 year old who formerly challenged for the featherweight world title.
Crolla, himself a former WBA belt-holder, has bounced back from his two losses to Jorge Linares with a bruising win against Ricky Burns last October and a comfortable 10 round points win over Edson Ramirez in March of this year. Against Yordan, Crolla steps into the mild unknown with the Indonesian not being the most “known” opponent.
A man with 26 KOs from 38 victories and losses coming only to world champions or challengers – Celestino Caballero, Chris John and Simpiwe Vetyeka – the 31 year old is a classy operator with a vicious punch. Yordan has a tendency to open up as the rounds progress allowing himself the opportunity to launch sterling counter attacks but, in doing so, finds himself susceptible to walking onto a punch.
Eight wins on the trot since moving up to lightweight, skipping super-feather completely, the heavy weight division has seen Yordan gain considerable success and, despite his aging years, he’s looked serene and youthful in the ring, as of late.
Million Dollar is at a point in his career where he wants to be taking big fights only and Yordan is a sensible stepping stone in that direction. Across his career we’ve seen Crolla’s class with endless heart being shown in the 12 years since he turned pro.
Typically targeting the body of his opponents, you only have to look at his knockouts against Darleys Perez and Ismael Barroso for picture-perfect displays of the constant threat he poses. In a ram-packed 135lb division that bustles with domestic talent Crolla will be looking to prove he’s still a step better than the young crop with a peerless display on Saturday.
The winner becomes mandatory challenger to Vasyl Lomachenko in what would be a legacy-defining bout but, before all that can even be dreamt about, someone needs to rise to the occasion and seize their opportunity – Crolla will be favourite but Yordan’s not going to make it easy.
Saturday night witnesses one of the biggest fights in British boxing history – whether you like that or not – with “that fat scouser” putting it all on the line for one shot at ultimate glory. We’re going to see plenty of grit from the Brit as he seeks to produce a seismic shock but with Bellew you simply never know what’s going to happen.
Get some popcorn at the ready because it’s going to be a blockbuster!