Matt Gipon: Bellew could block Usyk’s rise to the top

The undefeated Ukrainian has big plans after a relentless rise through the ranks so far, but Tony Bellew poses a problem on Saturday night...

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This Saturday, the fat Scouse kid gets to shoot for all the marbles but he’s taking on the hardest, nuttiest bully in the playground.

2012 Olympic champion Oleksandr Usyk has swept up all the titles in the cruiserweight division and he’s offering Tony Bellew the chance to win his undisputed crown in his last fight before attempting to conquer the heavyweight scene.

Also on show in Manchester, local lad Anthony Crolla is in a tough world title eliminator against Daud Yordan and there’s the scrap between Ricky Burns and Scotty Cardle for one last run at the big time. And we’ve got you covered on the undercard and the WBSS action from Chicago too.

PaddyPower.com is a knockout for boxing odds

USYK v BELLEW

Don’t bet against Bellew – advice I should’ve taken and given twice in the last two years. Once again ‘The Bomber’ starts as a big underdog, but in Usyk he is facing one of the pound-for-pound best.

The Ukrainian is on some run – in 2011 he won the amateur world championships, in 2012 the Olympics, in 2013 he turned pro, in 2016 he won his first world title, in 2017 he entered the World Boxing Super Series and in July, just his 15th paid contest, he unified all four belts and took home the WBSS trophy.

The unbeaten Usyk is now plotting a collision course towards heavyweight number one and boxing’s money man, Anthony Joshua. To familiarise himself to the British audience, and get a handsome payday in the meantime, the ‘Monster’ called out former title-holder Bellew.

Boxing – Mairis Briedis vs Oleksandr Usyk – World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight division semi-final – Arena Riga, Latvia – January 28, 2018. Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine celebrates victory. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Beating a 14-stone southpaw with the hand speed of a ping pong player and the footwork of a ballerina is basically mission impossible but one man lost by only one round. In the WBSS semis, Mairis Briedis threw shots when under fire – knowing that he would get caught, but also that it was the only time Usyk’s feet were set.

Bellew believes he has more power than Briedis and he has a solid engine despite looking like a man who enjoys an extra slice of bread with his fish and chips. The Ukrainian isn’t a massive puncher and if the Brit has some success in the early exchanges he can slow down Usyk.

Boxing – Tony Bellew vs David Haye – O2 Arena, London, Britain – May 5, 2018 Tony Bellew celebrates with promoter Eddie Hearn after winning his fight against David Haye Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

Popular opinion is that if Bellew wins it will be by KO but Usyk has a chin hardened by fighting heavyweights as an amateur – he beat Britain’s Olympic silver medallist Joe Joyce in 2013 without the headgear – and the ability and experience to avoid danger when he needs to. I’m backing Bellew to win on points at 14/1!

But that punt might not be for everyone. The Evertonian is 36 in three weeks time and he’s always struggled defensively against lefties. Unlike against Haye, Bellew has to start fast and I think it will be a closer contest than most anticipate – don’t bet against Bellew.

Bet of the bout: Fight to go the distance – 5/4

CROLLA v YORDAN

It can be a long road back when you’ve been knock off the top of the boxing mountain and 20 months have already passed since Crolla last tried to win his lightweight belt back. This weekend ‘Million Dollar’ can secure another shot at glory if he can beat Yordan.

The strong, experienced Indonesian will be confident he can ambush the opportunity having gone unbeaten for more than five years and having never lost at 135lbs. Crolla has been publicly warned by his trainer that he’s in for a hard night.

In the past Crolla has struggled against durable, high-intensity punchers because he gets caught too often. The Englishman has the edge in skills, but he’s clocked up a lot of miles, and he has a record littered with close decision results.

Bet of the bout: Draw – 22/1

Boxing – Anthony Crolla & Edson Ramirez Weigh-In – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Britain – March 30, 2018 Anthony Crolla during the weigh in Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

UNDERCARD

If it’s a difficult road back to the top for Crolla it will be a gruelling path for the man Crolla beat last year, Ricky Burns. The 35-year-old Scot’s world titles in three divisions is testament that he has been there and done it, but he wants one more crack at the championship.

Scott Cardle has never been there, but as the British champion for two years he looked like he was ready to step up – and then he lost two of his last four at domestic level. Technical ability is not the issue for the Lancastrian but he can get out-muscled, and Burns has enough skill and strength to win by KO.

Pay-per-view star Dave Allen has a keep-busy fight against a big Argentine lump and you should back the Brit to make mince meat of his opponent in rounds 1-3, and early in the night Josh Kelly can add another stoppage win to his burgeoning career.

World Boxing Super Series

In the WBSS, Briedis returns as the cream of the competition for the second serving of the cruiserweight tournament. You can get a tasty 2/1 for the Latvian to win by KO and a solid 10/11 for the experienced Krzysztof Glowacki to progress to the last four in the other quarter final.

    *All odds correct at time of posting
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