Oleksandr Usyk vs. Tony Bellew: The Pursuit of Greatness

Six months ago, Tony Bellew’s unique tale had seemingly come to an end. After vanquishing David Haye once and for all, Bellew’s time as a prize-fighter looked complete but in his post-fight interview, his future would subtly become clear. Following talk of a potential fight with former pound-for-pound king Andre Ward, Bellew also mentioned the names of Usyk and Gassiev. At the time, those two were eleven weeks away from the World Boxing Super Series final, a historic Cruiserweight clash with all four titles on the line.

Nonetheless, the focus in London was on Bellew that night and even though his hopes to fight on seemed clear, it was obvious that those around him were less keen. Either way, ‘Bomber’ had made it apparent that he wouldn't be returning for just any name, instead actively searching for an international super fight. Well, on July 21st that exact fight would indeed emerge, with the aforementioned World Boxing Super Series final crowning a Cruiserweight king. More than that though, it had played host to the birth of boxing’s brand new star.

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That night in Moscow, Oleksandr Usyk would put on a masterful display, thoroughly out-boxing Gassiev and silencing his home-crowd. It had been a dominant performance, with Usyk showing immense skill en route to an emphatic decision win. Usyk’s showing had not only earned him the division’s titles either, it had also catapulted him to a whole new level on the sport’s world stage, unanimously placing him among the pound-for-pound elite. In his post-fight interview, Usyk would return the favor too, calling Bellew out just moments after his historic win.

From there, the writing was quite obviously on the wall and two months later, the fight was made. After two fights as a makeshift Heavyweight, Bellew would be returning to Cruiserweight in the pursuit of greatness, returning to the ring in hunt of an achievement that would forever alter his lasting legacy. By his own admission, Bellew has already reached heights well beyond his initial expectations, winning world honors in his home stadium before becoming a PPV star, scoring two stoppage victories over British boxing legend David Haye.

This is the chance to become much more than that though, taking part in Britain’s first ever four belt unification bout, and sharing the ring with one of the sport’s most revered talents. The impact of Bellew winning here is almost incomprehensible, elevating him to a level only reached by Britain’s boxing greats. It doesn’t take an expert to understand the gravity of the challenge that awaits but historically, Bellew thrives on that perception. Regardless of the post-fight takeaways and analysis, Bellew entered the ring as an underdog on his greatest nights and frankly, he’s looked better than ever doing so.

On the other hand, Usyk enters with his own aspirations. After basically wiping out the whole Cruiserweight division, Usyk was very clear with his next target, going after Bellew; a former division champion and the biggest star realistically available too. Speaking of such, it seems likely that in Usyk’s mind, this is simply the launching pad of his career’s pivotal next chapter. With a much-anticipated Heavyweight run potentially coming sooner rather than later, Usyk could position himself perfectly with an impressive win here, especially after aligning himself with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.

With Heavyweight’s superstar Anthony Joshua on his roster, Hearn is almost certainly aware of a potential clash opposite Usyk, and that fight’s drawing power could multiply after this Saturday night in Manchester. This fight is fascinating in that sense, it’s a unified champion opposite a man two years removed from the weight-class, a clash between two fighters at totally contrasting points of their professional careers. At the end of his run, Bellew is looking to take yet another leap forward, striving for a win that would undoubtedly be his finest yet.

For Usyk on the other hand, this is likely intended as a simple bridge: a step from Cruiserweight dominance in the direction of Heavyweight, the sport’s obvious glamour division. Unfortunately, only one man’s intentions can come to fruition, and that’s the beauty of this rather unique fight. Saturday night could prove to be another dramatic British boxing affair, but it could also play host to yet another Usyk masterclass. Time will tell but considering the stakes, it seems that one way or the other, history awaits.

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