Last weekend was the end of a 5 year era, if there could be such a thing as Tony Bellew came out of the ring, not with his reputation intact but with it enhanced as he danced and he boxed whilst Oleksandr Usyk plotted and then executed a game plan.
For four rounds we thought, Bellew might manage it but after the knockdown in the 8th we knew that we had seen a special fighter from the Ukraine, because he had just beaten the best cruiserweight in the world. For 5 years, guided by coach Dave Caldwell, that is who Tony Bellew became.
The rest of the weekend lived up to being a support to the main event but it was all really about the headline fight. As Tony becomes Anthony again and the friendship between him, his promoter, Eddie Hearn and trainer Dave Caldwell goes off into a golden sunset we can adopt the Ukrainian as a man who has become one of the best and get right behind him because he recognised how special Saturday was; he knew he had achieved greatness by beating it.
As for the rest of the night…
The night began live on Sky in Manchester with a brutal battle for the WBA international cruiserweight between Sam Hyde and Richard Riakporme. Riakporme was behind and was clearly losing the fight before a horrendous eye injury forced a stoppage. Riakporme did enough to show he has the skills but lacks the experience and it will be good to watch his career. Hyde looked awful and a google of his injury will show you why.
On the same bill we saw some other cracking action with welterweight Josh Kelly stopped Walter Fabian Castillo in the very first round whilst heavyweight Dave Allen, took longer to stop Ariel Estaban Baramonte – it went to the 7th round. Kelly gets former world title challenger David Avanesyan next on the 8th December at Sheffield in a really tough fight whilst Allen just gave himself another hard time in interview but hopes to get back out again before Christmas – he might need a wee rest though…
The lightweight WBA title eliminator between veterans Anthony Crolla and Daud Yordan was a massive fight for the popular Mancunian and it was a tough ask on paper; in the ring, Crolla was impressive, in command and is now in a fight with Vasyl Lomachenko if the deal can be made now he has got past the eliminator for the WBA title.
There was real added value with Ricky Burns stopping Scott Cardle in the 3rd round and we can now dream of more Burns Night cliché headlines in Scotland if he can get himself back in the mix for a world title. On this showing Burns will march on, Cardle though may join Bellew in hanging the gloves up.
Finally, the main event.
The records will show a 7th round knockout. The hearts will tell the head that for 4 rounds we thought he could. Before the fight he thought he could. For 4 rounds he proved he could. For 8 rounds though, a Ukrainian Master showed that he could too. The head will know it was a fitting end to a magical memory tour of the best of British boxing at a time when we have the best of world boxing at our feet.
I loved Bellew as a fighter, a character and as a pundit. He has nothing left to do but go back to being the Anthony that those of us who are not part of his inner circle don’t get to see but know it must be a pretty special person because Tony was too. Tony Bellew did not beat Oleksandr Usyk, but he continued to win our respect.
Finally, last night, Friday the 16th of November in in Oklahoma, Maurice Hooker defended his WBO super lightweight title against Alex Saucedo in a 7th round stoppage. Next up looks like a unification battle against WBC Champ, Jose Ramirez.