‘Fat kid from Liverpool’ Bellew vows to defy the odds one last time
Underdog ‘will give everything he has’ against champion Oleksandr Usyk, he tells Gareth A Davies
Tony Bellew was on his honeymoon in Greece. He had promised his wife Rachael and three sons he had retired. He was 35, and had beaten David Haye twice. More, he had won the World Boxing Council cruiserweight title at Goodison Park, home of his beloved Everton Football Club. He had earned millions.
But that night, on July 21, in Mykonos, he sneaked a look at the night’s boxing on his phone. Oleksandr Usyk, the Ukrainian, had just won all four of the world cruiserweight belts in Moscow in the final of the World Boxing Super Series, the first fighter to do so. Usyk’s first words were to call out Bellew after being presented with the Ali Trophy.
It was a challenge Bellew could not resist. Without hesitation, he speeddialled his promoter Eddie Hearn. Less than a month later, the fight was on. Bellew was back, for one last time.
Rachael had told him divorce was an option if he didn’t quit. They have been together since they were teenagers. Eleven years he has fought as a professional, in 33 fights. She worries about him.
But on Saturday night in Manchester, Bellew returns for what he calls “the hardest fight he will ever have”. He is fighting one of the leading pound-for-pound fighters, who won the Olympic heavyweight title in London, and is unbeaten as a professional, a machine in the ring.
Bellew, who calls himself “a fat kid from Liverpool”, is the underdog again. Just as he was twice against David Haye, and when he won the WBC cruiserweight title against Ilunga Makabu two years ago at Goodison.
Bellew, who starred in the
Trainer Dave Coldwell’s verdict
Hollywood movie Creed, the seventh film in the Rocky franchise, is not meant to win this fight – he is up against a slick southpaw fighter with brilliant boxing skills who squeezes a 6ft 3in tall frame into 14st 4lb (200 pounds).
Bellew, fighting for Usyk’s WBC, World Boxing Association, The Ring
The Sunday Telegraph: “When I first signed up for this fight that was the most important factor – getting to fight for all these belts. The closer the fight has drawn though, I’ve stopped caring about the belts. I just want to beat him.
“Everybody is saying I’ve got no chance. That’s a huge factor. We’ll find out very soon. I’ve always been the underdog. I was never meant to earn the amount I’ve earned. I wasn’t supposed to do the things I’ve done. I’m someone who has got to where he is purely on hard work, guts and determination.” When he and Usyk came face-to-face at a news conference, Bellew says: “I saw similar things in him that I see in myself. I looked at him and thought he’s definitely got a screw loose, and I know I have. He’s the only person I’ve seen where he believes 100 per cent everything he’s saying. I’ve seen so many fighters across the years who don’t. They tell lies. Fighters are really good liars. Especially the top ones. There’s no lying with this boy. He believes he is what he says he is. And to be fair, he’s gone on to do everything he said he would.
“He’s been an amateur world champion, he’s been an Olympic champion, he’s been a European amateur champion. He’s won every belt possible in his professional career. His belief is justified.”
Bellew insists this will be his last fight, win, lose, or draw.
“You realise that going through camp. My body can’t take anymore. It’s never the fight. It’s the camp that leaves the marks. As much as I feel I could get through many more fights, I can’t get through any more camps.
“I am very, very happy with what I’ve achieved. Before I even lace up those gloves against Usyk, I’ve already won. I was never supposed to be in the position I’m in now. Part of me even wonders why I’m doing this again, why I’m putting myself through this.
“It really isn’t the money. My life is full. We’ve got things in place, me and my wife.
“We’ve got a great business and a great property portfolio. I will give everything I have on Saturday night, and then I will retire from boxing. Whatever the outcome.”
Oleksandr Usyk v Tony Bellew is live on Sky Box Office on Nov 10.
Fighting talk: Tony Bellew, with the WBC belt in 2016, knows he is the underdog