Tony Bellew can claim to be Liverpool's greatest fighter ever ahead of John Conteh if he beats Oleksandr Usyk… but I'm afraid he won't
But it is a seemingly impossible task. Usky holds all four world cruiserweight belts and is a brutal boxer.
Conteh has reigned supreme as Merseyside’s finest ever fighting man since he won the world light-heavyweight title in 1974 – eight years before Bellew was born.
I’ve always maintained Conteh, sits alongside Ken Buchanan and Joe Calzaghe, as the best Britain has produced in more than 50 years without fear of contradiction.
Bellew grew up hero worshipping Conteh, and said “I idolised him as a kid. In my eyes he is the greatest fighter this country has ever produced. What he means to me is hard to put into words.”
Tony would have a much better chance of victory over Usyk if he could take Conteh in the ring with him – and John’s 67!
Unbeaten Usyk, a world amateur and the London Olympic champion is considered pound-for-pound on the same exalted level as Terry Crawford, Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin and Vasyl Lomachenko.
It’s no surprise that the outstandingly skilful, if unspectacular, Ukrainian has been installed as an overwhelming 9-1 0n favourite to take the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO straps back home to Kiev.
That’s the measure of the daunting task the mouthy belligerent Bellew is faced with.
But Tony has defied the odds on many occasions. Non more so than when he shocked the majority of the pundits by twice stopping heavyweight David Haye.
Bellew is often emotional but he’s been a pro for eleven years and he has taken a far more pragmatic approach to this fight.
It’s not the usual bombastic Bellew on this occasion. With admirable honesty he said “this guy is a better fighter than me and I have no problem saying that.
“He has faults but I have many more faults than him. But David Haye was a better fighter than me.
“The better fighter doesn’t always win. Remember I’m the the little fat cruiserweight – write me off at your peril.
“I’m going up against the Monster – the man no one really wants to fight. the man just dismantles fighters and beats them easily.
“This is the ultimate test for me. There’s no greater test than Usyk. I know this is the most dangerous fight of my life but I’m going into it with my eyes wide open.
“The whole world thinks I’m going to get smashed. Everbody is saying I will get beat-up quickly but we will find out won’t we?”
Usyk, like his fellow Ukrainians, the Klitschko brothers and Lomachenko, has brilliant all-round technical skills and is very difficult to nail.
Because of a long and distinguished amateur career he didn’t turn pro until he was 26 – just five years ago.
Tony realises when it comes to ability he can’t win. But he is relying on being the more powerful puncher to encourage him to believe he can pull-off what would be an amazing upset victory.
Bellew has had a colourful career and this is almost certainly going to be his farewell appearance. I just hope he can last the 12 rounds.
He has entertained us royally outside as well as inside the ropes and he thoroughly deserves to bow out in front of a sell-out crowd.
But I’m afraid he is going to find out that Usyk deserves his reputation.
Which means JC Super-star will remain on top of his Liverpool pedestal – possibly forever.
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