‘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

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Fed­er­a­tion, World Box­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion and mag­a­zine belts, told

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

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