Sunderland Echo - - Sport -

Tony Bellew is con­fi­dent he will pass the “ul­ti­mate test” of his ca­reer to be­come the undis­puted world cruis­er­weight cham­pion to­mor­row night.

The Liver­pudlian faces the highly-rated and un­de­feated Ukrainian Olek­sandr Usyk, holder of the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF and Ring mag­a­zine ti­tles, at Manch­ester Arena.

Bellew is step­ping back down from the heavy­weight divi­sion for what could be his fi­nal fight in the hope of ful­fill­ing his dream of be­com­ing world cham­pion.

Asked if he was fac­ing he best op­po­nent yet, the 35-year-old said: “Yes - he is the ul­ti­mate test. There is noth­ing this man can­not do in a box­ing ring. He is the most com­plete fighter I have ever faced. Every­thing he does is class.

“I meet a man who has ex­cep­tional skills, an ex­cep­tional tal­ent. He has every­thing I have ex­cept that one thing - I can turn some­one’s lights out in the blink of an eye.

“It’s never hap­pened to him be­fore but it could hap­pen to­mor­row. I am go­ing to find a way.”

Usyk, 31, is an Olympic gold medal­list and un­beaten in 15 fights as a pro­fes­sional. He is ex­pected to step up to heavy­weight in the near fu­ture and could have his eyes on An­thony Joshua’s ti­tles.

Bellew has won 30 of his 33 fights, the two most re­cent be­ing his heav­ily-billed bouts against David Haye in the top divi­sion.

He briefly re­tired af­ter the sec­ond of those in May, but was quickly tempted back into the ring by the op­por­tu­nity to face Usyk.

Bellew said: “I have to beat him up, or find a way to do the im­pos­si­ble.

“The only chance I have is a puncher’s chance - I can­not out­box this man. He is a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent. He has every­thing any boxer could pos­si­bly want and he is a hor­ri­ble southpaw.

“But I’ve shown what I can do at heavy­weight and, be­lieve you me, I will show even more what I can do at cruis­er­weight. I am faster, sharper and pos­si­bly even stronger at cruis­er­weight.

“As good as he is, as great as he is, he is meet­ing some­one with some­thing in­side him. I don’t know what I am go­ing to do, when I am go­ing to do it, but I just know I am go­ing to punch him in the face re­ally hard.”

Bellew, de­spite ad­mit­ting Usyk may be the su­pe­rior tal­ent, did not un­der­sell him­self for an event that pro­moter Ed­die Hearn de­scribed as “the big­gest and best fight Match­room have ever pro­moted”.

Bellew said: “This is the most sig­nif­i­cant fight in cruis­er­weight his­tory, the rich­est fight this divi­sion has ever seen. Who brought that to the ta­ble? I did. He brings the hard work, I bring the money. Never for­get that.”

Usyk, sit­ting along­side Bellew at the pre-fight press con­fer­ence, was more un­der­stated.

He said: “Tony is my best op­po­nent ever, def­i­nitely. We feel Tony and I will per­form our best. I think it will be a spec­tac­u­lar fight.

“Years ago I dreamed about vis­it­ing Eng­land. I couldn’t imag­ine that some day I would be fight­ing in Manch­ester. I am as glad as the small kid who re­ceived a Kinder Sur­prise!”

Sun­der­land’s Josh Kelly in train­ing at a pub­lic work­out in Manch­ester. The ris­ing star of Bri­tish box­ing takes on Ar­gen­tinian Wal­ter Fabian Castillo to­mor­row night.

Tony Bellw at full stretch.

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