Oleksandr Usyk’s dominance in the cruiserweight division continued on Saturday with a thunderous knockout win over veteran Tony Bellew. Two minutes into the eighth round, Usyk rocked Bellew with a stiff jab, and followed it up with a huge left hand to send the challenger tumbling into the ropes, ending the fight. With the victory, Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) not only remained undefeated and maintained control of all four cruiserweight belts, but made an impressive statement about his status in the boxing world.
It was an interesting, closely contested fight before Usyk’s sudden knockout. Barely any punches were thrown in the first round, and Bellew (30-3-1, 20 KOs) seemed to bother the champion early on. Not only did Bellew scream and taunt at Usyk, showing no fear, but he landed plenty of strong right counter shots.
As the fight continued, however, Usyk figured out Bellew and started to take control of the action. Usyk pressed the issue, using his jab more and more as the rounds went on. While Bellew still snuck in a few good counter punches, his output slowed as the fight passed the halfway mark.
That trend continued into the eighth and what would be the final round when Usyk finally brought the bout to a close. His skill and brilliance on full display, Usyk landed a number of big shots before finally bringing the fight to a close with a devastating left.
Following the stoppage, a dazed Bellew, who struggled to recall what round the fight ended in, showed nothing but respect and admiration for his opponent, kissing Usyk on the forehead multiple times. Though clearly dismayed by the result, in what he’s claimed was a retirement fight, Bellew still took pride in his effort. “I tried me best,” the Liverpool native said in the ring. “I gave it everything I’ve got.”
But as he found out, sometimes heart and effort aren’t enough, not when the opponent is as talented as Usyk. “Only the very best and very biggest will find a way to beat him,” Bellew said. And the next fighter to have that chance just may be one of the biggest: Anthony Joshua.
Usyk made it clear even before taking care of Bellew that his goal is to move up to heavyweight and take on Joshua. And not only that, but he wants to become the undisputed heavyweight champ. Then, he says, he’ll retire.
“I need to become the undisputed heavyweight champion,” Usyk said in a recent interview. “As soon as I become, I will turn back and say, ‘Guys, thank you very much for your participation. Thanks everyone.’ I will thank the Lord, I will go to the ground and say farewell and I will go home.”
It’s an ambitious plan, and maybe even an impossible one. But one thing’s for certain, we’ll have plenty of fun watching Usyk go about trying to make it a reality.
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