AFTER stopping Tony Bellew in scintillating fashion in the eighth round at Manchester Arena to retain his undisputed cruiserweight crown, Oleksandr Usyk is now looking forward to a well-earned rest.

“I want to go on vacation with my family to the homeland of Santa Claus!” the eccentric and captivating Ukrainian said at the post-fight press conference. “I’ve had a really tough year [with World Boxing Super Series contests against Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev, as well as the Bellew bout]. It’s been the most successful year of my career, but also the most difficult.

The World Boxing Super Series was both mentally and physically difficult, as there were only short periods between fights, so I was never 100 per cent.”

Despite the conclusiveness of the finishing punch from Usyk against Bellew, the match had been keenly contested up until that point, with the Liverpudlian arguably winning all of the first three rounds. In fact, at the time of the stoppage, one judge had the fight level, while the other two had Bellew in front.

“I had to stay focused in every single round because he is a really dangerous man,” Usyk said of his opponent. “He is a real man – a true warrior.

“I was trying to control myself in the first four rounds – trying to box instead of just fighting.”

Due to his impressive achievements in 2018, promoter Eddie Hearn believes Usyk “undoubtedly” deserves to be named Fighter of the Year. However, this kind of praise doesn’t sit well with the man himself.

Oleksandr Usyk

“Every day I pray and ask God to give me humility,” Usyk stated. “No matter what I do in life and what I achieve, I just want to think of myself as a normal guy.

“I want to thank Eddie Hearn for allowing me to start my journey in the UK. I think we’re going to have some good times here.”

Much has been written and said about the possibility of Usyk challenging unified world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua next year. When asked about this subject, Usyk responded: “We need to wait a bit [before talking about this fight]. It’s too early [since fighting Bellew] to be talking about this.”

Nonetheless, Hearn is excited about the potential next steps for Usyk. The Matchroom chief said: “There are so many great fights out there for him. He’s going to be very popular in the British market now [after impressing against Bellew]. Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora are having their rematch in December, and I’d like [Usyk] to be ringside for that. Then there’s Alexander Povetkin, Joseph Parker, Jarrell Miller – all kinds of opportunities.”