Tony Bellew explains how Oleksandr Usyk’s pressure breaks fighters after win over Tyson Fury

Tony Bellew has explained how Oleksandr Usyk’s pressure can break fighters, reflecting on the quality that saw the Ukrainian beat him in 2018 and Tyson Fury this month.

After a solid start against Fury on 18 May, Usyk lost several rounds in a row – at least – in their undisputed heavyweight title fight. However, the southpaw then produced his own prolonged run of success, which saw win a split decision after handing Fury a standing count in round nine.

The victory in Saudi Arabia made Usyk just the second man in the four-belt era to hold undisputed gold in two divisions, following his reign at cruiserweight. And that reign culminated in a defence against Bellew, whom the Ukrainian stopped in 2018.

Bellew started well in Manchester, but Usyk began to take over the fight before stopping the Liverpudlian with a clean left cross in round eight.

In an excerpt from Andy Clarke’s new book The Knockout, released on Thursday (30 May), Bellew said: “I remember most of it. I remember everything up to the end of round seven.

“I remember going back to the corner and [coach] Dave Coldwell asking, ‘Are you tired?’ and I said that I was absolutely f***ed.

“I remember thinking, ‘I am absolutely gassed,’ and I know Dave would have wanted to pull the plug then, but he knew that could never happen. I just knew, I was spent, I was absolutely exhausted. And then I don’t remember anything of round eight.

“The next thing I remember, after sitting in the corner talking to Dave, is my wife coming in the dressing room crying. [The knockout sequence] is gone. I can’t remember a single f***ing second.”

Coldwell, speaking to Clarke, highlighted a moment in round six in which Bellew was hurt by Usyk, saying: “I knew straight away, his legs were heavy – not gone, but heavy.

Bellew was brutally knocked out by Usyk in round eight of their 2018 clash (Getty)
Bellew was brutally knocked out by Usyk in round eight of their 2018 clash (Getty)

“When he came back to the corner, I leaned into his ear, and I said, ‘This is very important, this next round,’ because he’s boxing well and he’s winning the fight. I said, ‘Take a round off and don’t punch until you feel your legs are back. He’ll start cranking it up, but keep him missing so you don’t get caught with anything big. Get through this round for me, then we’ll have another shot.’

“But he gets up from his stool, and the last thing he says to me – and you can see it on TV – is that he’s fine. So, I’m trying to get into his head, because I know, and it doesn’t matter about bulls****ing anyone else. I know, so I say it again, and he tells me again that he’s fine, walks into the middle of the ring and starts f***ing swinging.

“Round seven for me was a disaster. That round, Usyk made Bellew work, made him trigger, made him panic and throw punches at the wrong time, get nailed with shots on the way, wore him out. And that energy level just went down, down, down, down. So, when he came back to the corner at the end of round seven, that’s when I thought: ‘We’re f***ed.’”

Usyk almost stopped Fury in round nine but eventually won a split decision (PA Wire)
Usyk almost stopped Fury in round nine but eventually won a split decision (PA Wire)

Usyk stopped Bellew in round nine to stay unbeaten and retain the undisputed cruiserweight titles. He then moved up to heavyweight, where he has stayed unbeaten and now earned undisputed status.

On Saturday, Filip Hrgovic will box Daniel Dubois for the IBF interim heavyweight title. A win will set up a future clash with Usyk – who is due to rematch Fury in December – or see Hrgovic or Dubois upgraded to official champion if Usyk is stripped of the regular belt.

‘The Knockout’ by Andy Clarke was published on Thursday 30 May by Aurum – an imprint of The Quarto Group. It is available on Amazon and elsewhere in hardback and Kindle editions.