Feature | Sep 21 2018

Can Tony Bellew become an all-time great?

If Tony Bellew beats Oleksandr Usyk he will belong among the pound-for-pound best, Eddie Hearn tells Jack Figg
Tony Bellew
Tony Bellew vs David Haye  |  Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

PROMOTER Eddie Hearn believes a win over Oleksandr Usyk will cement Tony Bellew a place in the sport as an ‘all time great’.

Hearn announced last week that Tony Bellew will challenge undisputed cruiserweight world champion Usyk for all four of the major organisation world titles, on November 10, at the Manchester Arena.

Despite Bellew’s ability to defy the odds, like he did with a brace of wins over heavyweight David Haye and rising from off the canvas to beat Ilunga Makabu for the WBC cruiserweight world title, Hearn stated it was Usyk who instigated the fight by calling out ‘The Bomber’.

“I wasn’t mad on the fight because it’s a very dangerous fight,” Hearn admitted.

“I would always joke with Tony and say, ‘I ain’t letting you fight Usyk.’ We talked about the Usyk- [Murat] Gassiev winner and I told him, ‘I’m not letting you fight him.’

“He said, ‘I’ll fight him, I’ll fight him.’ But even going into the [World Boxing Super Series] final we didn’t take it very seriously. It was just in the ring after Usyk called out Bellew.

“[Bellew] texted me saying I had to make the fight, and that was it.”

As Usyk comfortably outpointed Gassiev in Russia to claim the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO cruiserweight world titles, the Ukrainian was elevated to a pound-for-pound contender.

This has led Hearn to believe if Bellew is to overcome the odds once again in Manchester, he should be considered as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet, despite how the internet may react to that.

Hearn said, “If you look at Usyk and you say where do you rate him pound-for-pound in the world, for me it’s top three. Even if you’re miserable it’s top five.

“So if Bellew beats Uysk he has to go top five pound-for-pound in the world. Now if he did that the internet would break and people would have a breakdown, but he’s earned it.

“He’s won British, Commonwealth, European and world championships, beaten Haye twice and beaten Usyk to become the undisputed cruiserweight world champion. So he has to be a pound-for-pound great, and that’s what’s driving him for this fight.

“It’s not because he needs the money, it’s because he has the chance to become undisputed world champion and a pound-for-pound great. And who would’ve thought Tony Bellew would be on the verge of that, it’s brilliant.”

So just six months on from when Bellew defeated Haye for a second time, this time in more devastating fashion, the Liverpudlian puncher will yet again prepare to overcome the odds.

But Hearn admitted it’s hard to judge whether Bellew is more of an underdog coming into the Usyk fight, compared to the Haye fights.

“It’s tough to say as he’s fighting a fresh guy, whose completely in the prime of his career,” the promoter said.

“Whereas David Haye wasn’t in the prime of his career, but he was a heavyweight who was extremely experienced.

Tony Bellew

“Bellew is definitely the underdog in this fight but he definitely has so much more professional experience compared to Usyk. I know Usyk had hundreds of amateur bouts but I think Bellew finds ways to win.

“I know he’s up against it but I see this as a 50-50 fight. I see odds at 4/1 for Bellew and stuff like that but I see it as a 50-50 fight as Tony finds ways to win.

“With this fight if he wins he would have done absolutely everything and more than he could have ever dreamed of so for me, win or lose this is Bellew’s last fight.”

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