After back to back victories over David Haye at heavyweight, Tony Bellew moves back down to Cruiserweight to face the undisputed champion Oleksandr Usyk. All the major Cruiserweight belts are on the line and give the perennial underdog Bellew the chance to achieve pound for pound recognition if he is able to beat the big Ukrainian.
The bookies have Usyk as the favourite heading into the fight and it is easy to see why. Usyk has unified the Cruiserweight division in 15 fights and won the heavyweight Olympic gold medal at London in 2012. While Bellew revels in upsetting the odds, as he has done in his last two fights against David Haye, he has done so against opposition who are far from the crème de la crème. Oleksandr Usyk is a totally different proposition than an over the hill David Haye or Ilunga Makabu.
In terms of how the fight pans out, it seems likely that Usyk will be able to outbox Bellew, using his jab and footwork. For a big man, Usyk moves extremely well and is constantly on the go. He pivots off his front foot and moves laterally and backwards before his opponents are able to catch him. His footwork is likely to be a nightmare for Bellew who likes to set his feet a bit more and throw left hooks and uppercuts.
Despite this, it is still tempting to buy into the Tony Bellew fairytale, especially when Bellew to win by TKO is 8/1 and KO is 14s (Betfair & Bet365 respectively). However, the facts remain that while Bellew has recorded some impressive wins recently, he’s been competing at a level someway below the level that Usyk operates at. Bellew’s chances of winning the fight, by stopping Usyk, all hinge on Bellew being able to firstly land and with enough power to hurt Usyk.
Bellew’s ability to do both is questionable, not through his own deficiencies, but because Usyk is simply so good. In his last fight, Usyk beat arguably the biggest puncher of the Cruiserweight division in Murat Gassiev, and Gassiev could barely land a glove on him… that Bellew can do what Gassiev couldn’t seem unlikely.
Whilst carrying enough pop in his punches, Usyk isn’t a huge punching Cruiserweight and Tony Bellew has shown he can take a punch and has good defensive skills himself, therefore the fight going the distance looks a likely outcome. Usyk should win the majority of rounds with his fast straight shots and quick feet; Usyk by decision looks a solid bet at $2.75*, whilst Ladbrokes & Coral offer $3.75* unanimous decision in their decision victory markets, which shouldn’t be sniffed at. But it's the $21* on a Usyk split decision victory that's caught my eye.
While all evidence suggests a unanimous win is on the cards, these big fights often tend to throw up a dodgy scorecard from one of the judges, especially when there is a home underdog and two very different styles on display. Finally, with both fighters strong defensively, with good amateur backgrounds and neither a brawler by any stretch of the imagination, no knockdowns in the fight at $3.50* looks a reasonable bet to protect profit regardless of who wins.