It’s been one heck of a ride, but Tony Bellew’s career finally ended last night in an eight-round knock-out by Oleksandr Usyk.
From winning the WBC title at his beloved Goodison Park to starring in the Rocky spin-off ‘Creed’ and those two duels with David Haye, Bellew has had many highlights.
But it is all over after he failed in his Herculean attempt to upset the odds and dethrone the undisputed cruiserweight king Usyk at Manchester Arena.
Usyk showed just why he is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet and one of the finest talents to visit our shores as he destroyed Bellew punch by punch.
As disappointed as Bellew will be to suffer only the third pro loss of his 35-fight career, he bows out with his head held high and this was one of his finest displays.
“Oleksandr Usyk is a great champion,” he said. “I’ve lost to one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. I’ve no excuses, he’s an amazing fighter.
“He’s a brilliant fighter, so hard to pin down. He’s won world amateur titles, Olympic titles and four world titles, he’s done everything.
“I’ve fought the best and he’s better than me. He beat me fair and square.
“He’s the best I’ve ever fought, he’s slick. Anyone who faces him is in a lot of trouble.”
For Usyk, the journey continues and he wants a crack at Anthony Joshua.
Watched by greats Thomas ‘Hitman’ Hearns and Naseem Hamed, Bellew made history last night and he was the first fighter to challenge for four major belts in one division on British soil.
The first round was a cagey affair and Bellew was cautious, mindful of the left hand southpaw Usyk had permanently cocked.
The crowd cheered when Bellew landed a right hook on Usyk at the end of the second and he made a bright start.
The fight opened up in the third and Bellew caught Usyk with a right to the body and a right hook before the champion responded with a big left.
Usyk showed Bellew huge respect and began to get through more in the fourth. He staggered Bellew with a left hook right on the button, but Bellew still continue to counter with his right.
Usyk landed his left in the fifth and Bellew was marked below his left eye in a sign of the growing number of shots he was taking.
Bellew lured Usyk into a trap in the seventh when he backed into one of the neutral corners and then caught his opponent with a combination.
That was an isolated attack from Bellew and Usyk gradually wore down his defences.
By the eighth, Bellew was wide open and Usyk landed at will before finishing it with a left hook.
Bellew went down and referee Terry O’Connor counted him out, while Usyk slumped to his knees in joy in the opposite corner.
Bellew had been beaten, but typically he had given every last drop he had.
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