By John J. Raspanti
Tony Bellew wanted all four cruiserweight belts and a Cinderella ending to his boxing story. The dream looked good for five rounds, until undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk found the answer-leading to a definitive knockout in round eight at a rocking Manchester Arena in Manchester, England Saturday night.
The fight was more tactical than exciting. In the opening round, southpaw Usyk bounced and pumped his jab. Bellew probed and let his right hand go. Usyk kept working his right in the second stanza. A few landed. Bellew connected with own left. Bellew landed a straight right. Usyk fired back. Bellew unloaded a combination to win the round.
In rounds three and four, Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) fought more aggressively. Bellew (30-3-1, 20 KOs) looked to counter. Usyk, born and bred in the Ukraine, landed a solid left to the chin. Bellew threw a few more lead right hands. Usyk pushed Bellew into the ropes. The crafty Liverpool native moved away and fired a right. Both fighters were having a hard time hitting each other solidly.
Bellew continued to surprise Usyk with his boxing ability in round five. Usyk had decided that his best way to victory was being more aggressor. The boxer had turned stalker. Bellew wanted this, but Usyk was a little quicker. Bellew went to the head and body.
Usyk,31, connected with a left in the opening seconds of round six. He was still having hard time landing with his jab consistently, but he was busier and forcing Bellew to work.
Through six rounds the fight appeared even. Referee Terry O’Connor had been mostly an observer. Usyk pushed the action in round seven. He landed a classic one-two. Bellew,35, connected with a short hook. Usyk kept working in round eight as Bellew, looking slightly winded, loaded up his right. He was trying to time Usyk, but was missing. Usyk, who won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic games, kept up the pressure. He landed a long left that appeared to hurt Bellew. Seconds later a huge sweeping left sent Bellew crashing to the canvas. Referee O’Connor began to count, but waved off the fight as Bellew struggled to get up.
The time was 2:00 of round eight.
“Two champions in the ring,” said Usyk. “I knew he would go for it.”
“I tried my best,” said Bellew. “He’s an exceptional fighter-the best I’ve ever fought.”