Tony Bellew went out on his shield today in Manchester against Oleksandr Usyk, violently knocked out by the cruiserweight champion in the eighth round of what had been a competitive fight.
In fact, two of the three judges apparently had Bellew (30-3-1, 20 KO) leading Usyk (16-0, 12 KO) after seven rounds.
After the fight, Bellew spoke with Sky Sports in the ring, and while he was clearly still shaken up — probably concussed, frankly — he gave Usyk nothing but respect, implored fans not to boo him, and seemed to confirm his retirement, after saying coming in that this would be his last fight.
“I tried my best, I gave it everything I’ve got,” Bellew said. “He’s an exceptional fighter and he deserves all the awards in the world. I lost to one of the pound-for-pound best that’s ever done it. He beat me fair and square, I have no excuses. He’s an amazing fighter. He’s a great champion, the greatest man I’ve ever shared the ring with.”
“He’s just better than me,” he added. “He’s the best I’ve ever fought. He’s slick, he’s strong, he’s exceptional. Give him his credit. .. . I’m a world class fighter. That’s the difference between world class and elite level.”
“It’s definitely the end,” Bellew said when asked if this was the end.
If it is the end for Bellew, he’ll go down as a fan favorite, a blue collar battler who never let any setbacks get him down or discourage him from continuing to go after big fights. He didn’t turn down challenges and he didn’t run from a fight.