OLEKSANDR USYK is many things. The favourite against Tony Bellew on Saturday (November 10) at the Manchester Arena for one thing. A fantastic boxer. Fast, clever, charismatic. The reigning, undisputed cruiserweight world champion. An Olympic gold medallist. But one thing he is not, as Tony Bellew is at pains to point out, is the A-side of Saturday’s defence of the WBO, WBC, WBA and IBF world titles.
Bellew is adamant that this fight is happening because he allowed it to happen.
“He wanted this fight at heavyweight,” Tony told Boxing News. “He wanted to make his debut at heavyweight.”
The Briton however could dictate the terms. Bellew made his name when he hammered David Haye twice at heavyweight, but the Liverpudlian chose to drop back down to cruiserweight. “I beat David Haye twice and he’s a better fighter than me. He’ll go down as a greater name than me. Styles make fights, that’s the way it is. It was f*** all to do with his age, it was nothing to do with it. Going into that first fight everyone was saying they feared for my health,” Tony said. “Well, he had five rounds, why didn’t he do it? The only the reason he got injured was because he couldn’t lay a f****** glove on me. And when he did lay a glove on me, he got no reaction. When I’m at heavyweight I can absorb anything.”
But he wanted to go back down to 200lbs to challenge for the undisputed crown. “I’ve seen a few comments [from Usyk saying] ‘I’m the A-side.’ Listen mate, the last thing you are is the A-side. You’re getting a flat fee, I pay you. The money’s mine, I’m paying him a flat fee for what he’s getting. It’s a lot of money but I’m paying him a flat fee, I take the venue, I take the revenue. The only reason I didn’t demand being first on posters or ringwalking second is because I believe he’s a champion, I believe he’s a great face of boxing. He is the man, so I’m giving him that. But believe you me, mate, I didn’t have to. I could have been the diva, I really could have. I could have done all the things that Haye done to me the first fight. But I didn’t,” Tony said. “He’s a brilliant fighter, he’s the most formidable test of my career. I gave him that respect. I’m not one of these divas… That’s not me. I give respect and I’ve done it with him. It is what it is, we’ll see on the night how it goes.”
But he adds, “There’s only one A-side here. The only thing I will say is I’m taking the home corner. That’s the only thing I wanted, the blue corner, as you can imagine.”
Usyk has been difficult to prepare for. His style is unique. “You can’t get one man to replicate it,” Bellew said. “You get in a number of boys and you ask them to do different things and the maximum they’ll do is three rounds on the spin and then they start getting tired. That’s the maximum you’ll let them do,” he said.
“I’ve had really fast sparring partners, some really good sparring partners, some really strange style sparring partners, but one thing I’ll say is they’ve all felt it. So have I too. Parts of camp I’ve had days where I’ve been s***, I’ve been beat up… Not every day has been great in camp.
“Some days I’m feeling it with the weight, some days I’m tired because I’ve worked so hard, some days I’m absolutely on fire and I’ve pounded the life out of two fellas one after another. Good days, bad days, it’s just camp. The harsh reality, and I know this sounds a bit harsh, but it doesn’t mean f*** all. All that matters is what happens when I get under the lights.”