Tony Bellew vs Oleksandr Usyk Tips - Undisputed World Cruiserweight Title Preview & Betting Tips

Ice-Cool Usyk tipped to end The Bomber’s Indian Summer with 7th Round KO
Tony Bellew vs Oleksandr Usyk Preview & Betting Tips

Tony Bellew vs Oleksandr Usyk Preview & Betting Tips 

Liverpool legend Tony Bellew will look to perform one last miracle in front of 20,000 fans on Saturday 10 November at the Manchester Arena. He is attempting to become the first man to defeat the superb Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, the man who has unified the cruiserweight division and established himself as one of the best boxers on the planet in just 15 fights. 

Usyk holds the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO titles and recently won the WBSS (World Boxing Super Series) cruiserweight tournament. He will put his belts on the line against big punching Tony “The Bomber” Bellew, himself the current WBC “Champion Emeritus.” 

While the phenomenally skilled Usyk will start as a clear betting favorite at 1.14, Bellew comes into this fight with his confidence at an all-time high after scoring back-to-back stoppage victories against David Haye. Bellew has vowed that he will knock Usyk out, while the champion has stated that he won’t be running and will go toe-to-toe with “The Bomber.” 

It all adds up to a highly anticipated encounter that promoter Eddie Hearn is predicting will be 2018’s Fight Of The Year. 

Tony Bellew

35-year old Anthony Lewis Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) is a proud Scouser and even prouder Evertonian. Born and raised in Liverpool, he still lives and trains there, and says that the greatest moment of his life was winning the world cruiserweight title at Goodison Park, home of his beloved Everton Football Club. 

Most UK fight fans love Tony Bellew, but that wasn’t always the case. Bellew first came to attention when as an amateur he won the ABA heavyweight class for three straight years. Turning pro in 2007, Bellew chose to boil his 6’3” frame down to light heavyweight, and he soon earned a reputation for his big left hook and his even bigger mouth, which was rarely shut. 

His boasting and trash talking, and his aggressive, “scally” manner proved divisive,  and Bellew quickly became a “Marmite” figure, either loved or hated and nothing in between. In 2010, Bellew put his newly won Commonwealth title on the line against Ovill McKenzie, a journeyman pro with a devastating right hand. 

In the first round McKenzie floored Bellew briefly, but he recovered well and started round two strongly. Suddenly, McKenzie again connected with a right-hand bomb, this time flush on Bellew’s jaw and he went down as if shot. 

Displaying recuperative powers that would have made Larry Holmes proud, Bellew was up quickly and instead of covering up, took the fight to McKenzie. For the next five rounds the two went toe-to-toe until Bellew ended the fight with a big left hook in the eighth. He had come through his toughest test with flying colors. 

Two Failed Title Shots, Then Redemption  

In 2011 Bellew challenged Nathan Cleverly for his WBO light heavyweight title and lost a majority decision.  After four wins and a draw, Bellew had earned another title shot, this time against WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, a murderous puncher. 

In the worst night of Tony’s boxing life, he was bludgeoned to defeat in six one-sided rounds, and at just 30, his career looked over. Little did we know, it was just the beginning. In March 2014, just four months after losing to Stevenson, Bellew was back in the ring, 22 lbs heavier, competing as a cruiserweight, and stopping fringe contender Valery Brudov in the 12th. 

Bellew thrived at the new weight, and despite a less than athletic appearance, he kept on winning, avenging his loss to Nathan Cleverly in 2014 and winning the European title by outscoring Mateusz Masternak the following year. In May 2016, Bellew’s life-long dream came true when he squared off against the highly ranked African puncher Ilunga Makabu for the vacant WBC cruiserweight title in front of 20,000 mainly scouse fans at Goodison Park. 

The fight was tremendously exciting from the get-go, with Bellew looking to overwhelm his rival from the opening bell, only to get floored himself late in the first round. However, by the third Bellew was battering Makabu on the ropes, and a huge left hook floored the South African for the count. 

Tony Bellew was a world champion at the third time of asking, and he and his delirious fans celebrated accordingly, although a lasting image was Bellew taking time out to console the vanquished Makabu.   

Two Fights With David Haye And Superstardom 

In his first title defense Bellew easily defeated American TV commentator and occasional boxer BJ Flores in three rounds, and after the win he called out David Haye at ringside. A heated argument turned into a scuffle, and soon after Haye vs Bellew at the O2 Arena in London was announced, although crucially, the fight had been made at heavyweight. 

While many casual fight fans were sure Haye – a heavyweight for ten years and a fearsome puncher - would win easily, those in the know were aware that Haye had fought just twice in four years, and both fights were embarrassingly easy knock over jobs. In that same time period Bellew had fought thirteen times against tough opposition. If Bellew could negate Hayes’s size and power, he could win. 

In March 2017 the two met, and from the opening bell it was clear Haye’s timing was way off, as he missed repeatedly with wild haymakers. Bellew began ultra-cautiously, but by round five he began to force the action. In the sixth Haye appeared to shove/head-butt Bellew to the canvas, and in the process appeared to injure himself, an injury that was later revealed to be a torn Achilles tendon. 

His mobility severely hampered, Haye nevertheless battled on and was always dangerous with his wild looping hooks. Bellew grew in confidence, and in the 11th he launched the attack that ended the fight, and suddenly he was a viable heavyweight contender. 

Despite multiple lucrative offers, no deal topped the money Eddie Hearn offered both men for a rematch, and Bellew and Haye went at it again a year later. Haye claimed he was better prepared and 100% fit this time around, but Bellew, lacking the caution of the first fight and powered by the death of his brother-in-law went gunning for an early KO. He floored Haye twice in the third, then finished him off with a trademark left hook in the fifth. 

Once again, Bellew had his choice of opponents after the win, ranging in size from Andre Ward to Tyson Fury. However, when Oleksandr Usyk called Bellew out after defeating Murat Gassiev and uniting the cruiserweight division, The Bomber just couldn’t resist the chance to go down in boxing history as an undisputed champion, hence this Saturday’s cruiserweight superfight at the Manchester Arena. 

Oleksandr Usyk 

Oleksandr Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) was born 31 years ago in the Crimea, Ukraine, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. Fiercely patriotic to both his native Crimea first and the Ukraine second, he won the hearts of his countryman when he sported a Cossack hairstyle during the 2012 London Olympics, and then performed a traditional Cossack dance – complete with the splits – after winning gold in the heavyweight class. 

That victory was the pinnacle of a phenomenal amateur career that saw Usyk also win gold at the 2008 European Championships and the 2011 World Championships, and bow out with a record of 335 wins against just 15 defeats. After quitting the amateurs, Usyk signed a promotional contract with the Klitschko brothers' K2 Promotions, and turned pro in late 2013 with 5th round KO of Felipe Romero. 

Because of his vast amateur experience, Usyk was moved quickly, and in 2016 in only his tenth pro fight, he challenged Poland’s unbeaten Krzysztof Glowacki for his WBO world cruiserweight title. Following his grueling 11th round KO of the tough, hard-hitting, long-time WBO titleist Marco Huck in a wild slugfest, and his subsequent clear points win over the classy ex-champ Steve Cunningham, Glowacki was regarded as the best fighter in the division. 

Many fans believed that Usyk was in over his head against this Polish iron man, and yet, displaying what would become his customary complete lack of nerves, Usyk boxed brilliantly to dominate the fight, winning a unanimous decision. 

In his first defense and US debut three months later, Usyk stopped South African Thabiso Mchunu in nine rounds. In a second US appearance in 2017, Usyk displayed his full range of dazzling skills while outpointing the highly rated Las Vegan Mike “The Bounty” Hunter II. 

World Boxing Super Series Success 

Usyk then signed to compete in the lucrative Word Boxing Super Series cruiserweight championship, which featured the top-eight fighters in the division, minus Tony Bellew, who had elected to move up to heavyweight and fight David Haye. In his third title defense and his quarterfinal bout in the WBSS, Usyk pounded a game but outclassed Marco Huck to defeat in ten rounds. 

Then, in January 2018, Usyk won his WBSS semifinal and also gained the WBC title when he defeated the previously unbeaten Latvian Mairis Briedis in a fiercely competitive  12-rounder. Usyk was awarded a majority decision, but it had been his toughest test by far, and one that he was lucky to win. 

Waiting for Usyk in the WBSS final was Russian Murat Gassiev, the WBA and IBF champion, a 24-year old phenom who had been a virtual unknown until he defeated Denis Lebedev for the IBF title in 2016.  Gassiev then blitzed former WBC champ Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in three rounds, and in arguably the best fight of 2018, he outlasted Cuban KO artist Yuniel Dorticos, stopping him in the twelfth to reach the WBSS final. 

As a pro, Usyk had been trained by Emanuel Steward protégé James Ali Bashir, but in 2017 he switched to Anatoly Lomachenko, trainer of his close friend Vasyl Lomachenko. Anatoly Lomachenko was the coach of the 2012 Ukraine Olympic team, where both Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko won gold. 

The relationship between Usyk and Anatoly Lomachenko is similar to that of Anthony Joshua and his coach Rob McCracken, who had previously coached the GB boxing team. No fight this year was more highly anticipated by hardcore boxing fans than Usyk vs Gassiev. 

While the older Usyk was the better boxer with far more amateur experience, Gassiev was the bigger puncher, and his relentlessness and imperviousness to damage made him seem unbeatable. In July 2018, the two met in the WBSS Final in Moscow, but despite home advantage, Gassiev could never get going, mainly because he had no answer to the blizzard of punches that came his way courtesy of the blurring fists of Usyk. 

In some ways the WBSS final was an anticlimax, but the boxing clinic Usyk put on proved he was one of the top-5 pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. 

Usyk vs Bellew Matchup 

Both men stand 6’3”, but Usyk has the longer reach (78” to 74”). Usyk is a southpaw, a supreme boxer with excellent footwork. Bellew has the greater one-punch power in his left hook, and has vastly more professional experience; Tony knows what it feels like to climb off the canvas, dig deep and come back from a losing position to win. 

Facts & Stats

  • Bellew is unbeaten in five years and is on a ten-fight winning streak. 
  • Usyk turned pro around the time Bellew began his winning streak. In that same time frame he has won 15 fights, stopping eleven. 
  • Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko are close friends, and despite being almost a foot taller and 100 lbs heavier, Oleksandr tries to mimic the dazzling footwork and rapid combination punching made famous by his illustrious countryman. 


The last five years have been something of a fairytale for Tony Bellew, but unfortunately for The Bomber, that fairytale will come to an unceremonious end on Saturday night. The harsh reality is he hasn’t actually fought a world class fighter since Adonis Stevenson in 2013, and that ended badly. 

In truth, Ilunga Makabu had done little to warrant fighting for a vacant world title, nor had BJ Flores earned the right to challenge for one. Bellew’s two wins over David Haye were tremendous events, but Haye looked shot in both bouts. 

Now Bellew comes face-to-face with one of the very best boxers of the past decade in Oleksandr Usyk. The Ukrainian’s speed, combination punching, movement and defense will suddenly become a stark reality on Saturday, and will soon be followed by the realization that barring a miracle, he (Bellew) cannot win. Consider this; if Usyk didn’t allow the second-best cruiserweight in the world to land a glove on him, what chance has Tony Bellew?

With a 73% knockout rate, expect Usyk to be looking for an impressive finish to entertain the UK crowd, and that might come much sooner than expected. After six rounds of being hit with a hailstorm of punches, Bellew will be ready to go. In the seventh Usyk will plant his feet, load up on his shots, and land the blows that put The Bomber down for the count, and into a much deserved second career as a TV pundit. 

Best Bets: 

  • Oleksandr Usyk Win By KO @ 1.90
  • Oleksandr Usyk Win By KO in Round 7 @ 13.00
Freetips staff 08 November 2018

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