It takes a lot for hardcore fight fans to swallow their pride and shell out on a Pay-Per-View event. As we leave behind a September that included no less than three paid offerings across three separate Box Office providers, supporters of the noble art can be forgiven for getting a little wallet weary.
One fight that is actually deserving of being pushed behind a paywall is the November 10 clash between Oleksandr Usyk and Tony Bellew in Manchester.
Many thought this fight would not come off at all but Matchroom signed a deal with Usyk and Bellew commendably pushed for the opportunity, so an agreement was put together.
Usyk’s standing in world boxing is at an all-time high. Not only did the Ukrainian win the cruiserweight version of the inaugural World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) but he also did it in style and exclusively on the road. Fellow unbeaten finalist Murat Gassiev was a big puncher and supposed to provide a legitimate test; Usyk comprehensively outboxed him for 12 rounds.
An excellent amateur and former WSB competitor, Usyk holds all of the credentials. His first world title win came on away soil in Poland. Two subsequent defences came in the United States, and he progressed through to the semi-final of the WBSS with a victory over former world champion Marco Huck in Germany. Usyk then travelled to Latvia to defeat hometown hero Mairis Briedis earlier this year to set up the final against Gassiev in the Russian’s homeland.
Usyk holds all four belts in the cruiserweight division, has two massive wins this year on his record and has unified a division by winning a tournament. Plus he’s already talking about moving his considerable frame up to heavyweight to box Anthony Joshua.
These facts provide clear evidence that the 31-year-old southpaw is not afraid to take on a challenge. Neither is his next opponent, Tony Bellew, which is what makes this match-up so intriguing.
The outspoken Evertonian is somewhat of a marmite figure within the boxing community. Some will like his direct nature and rants about judicial issues and society in general on Twitter. Others are irked by his smoothly perfected tone of delivery and constant barking of instructions from ringside to the likes of Anthony Joshua. Love him or hate him, Tony Bellew isn’t afraid to take on a challenge and have a scrap.
It is expected in many circles that Bellew will turn up and be clinically taken to school or knocked out. I don’t believe he’ll win, but I’ve learned that it can be folly writing him off so easily. Knockout wins over Ilunga Makabu and David Haye (twice) show his resilience under pressure. Of course in the latter contests, Haye was debilitated by crippling injuries but deemed fit enough to headline two Pay-Per-View attractions and Bellew duly beat what was put in front of him.
I think Usyk will use his superior technical skills and movement to continually remain one step ahead of Bellew who will retain something of a puncher’s chance throughout. Usyk to win on points then, but not as wide as some imagine.