Tony Bellew has nothing to lose and could seal his legacy in the sport if he manages to beat Oleksandr Usyk in his final fight before retirement, according to BoxNation pundit Steve Lillis.
The Liverpudlian cruiserweight will look to cap a fine career when he enters the ring with Usyk at Manchester Arena tonight as he says he will retire no matter what the result.
Two victories over David Haye have done little to alter perceptions among most experts that overwhelmingly suggest Bellew is a heavy underdog for the clash.
Lillis very much sides with that consensus but says Bellew should relish the opportunity to walk away from the sport on top with a win that would secure his place among the pantheon of British greats.
“Not to take nothing away from Tony Bellew but the wins that made him a mainstream name in this country didn’t send shockwaves around the world,” Lillis told Ian Stone’s Comedy Breakfast (weekdays 6.30am-10.30am).
“Beating Usyk would secure his boxing legacy and what better fight to go out on for him?
“If he loses, he’s lost to one of the top five or six boxers in the world in his final fight and earned an absolute shedload of money.
“If he wins he retires as one of the world’s top five or six fighters so it’s a no-lose isn’t it?”
The 35-year-old is looking to protect his 31-2-1 record ahead of his much-anticipated unification bout with the undefeated Usyk, who has won 11 of his 15 fights by knockout.The champion will present no shortage of problems for Bellew but is unlikely to defeat him in the early rounds according to Lillis, who described the Ukrainian as a methodical fighter who grinds down opponents.
“However great Usyk is he’s more of a boxer that dissects you and if you look, four of his last six fights have gone the 12-round distance,” Lillis added.
“He tends to just beat people easily on points. The toughest fight he had was a couple of fights ago against a very good Latvian, Mairis Briedis, who you would back to beat Bellew as well. That’s the only real hard fight he’s had as a pro.
“He’s hardly lost a round as a professional apart from that fight. He’s not one of these concussive, one punch knockout artists, he is a beautifully schooled amateur and he wins the way he knows best. He’s a technical genius.”Bellew has been widely praised for not shirking away from tough opponents and his willingness to put everything on the line in pursuit of victory, but Lillis feels that ‘Bomber’ might have met his match in Usyk.
“I think he’s bitten off more than he can chew by some way,” Lillis said.
“I don’t think he’s going to get blown out in a round or two, but anything can happen. I find it hard to imagine him putting a dent in Usyk.
“We’ve got to be really brutally honest his two wins against David Haye was against a Haye whose body was shot to bits.”
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