BOXING analyst Nick Munday (@NM_Sport) shares his betting thoughts on Saturday night's big bout as Tony Bellew takes on Oleksandr Usyk.
Oleksandr Usyk v Tony Bellew | Saturday 10th November 2018, 22:00 | Sky Sports Box Office
One of the best boxers on the globe heads to our shores on Saturday night when Oleksandr Usyk puts his WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF world cruiserweight titles on the line against Tony Bellew at the Manchester Arena.
Skilful southpaw Usyk won gold at London 2012 to cap off a brilliant amateur career. As a professional his record stands at 15-0 (11 KOs) and he became world champion in just his 10th bout.
After two unsuccessful world title tilts at light-heavyweight, Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) moved up to cruiserweight in 2014 and eventually became world champion at 200lbs in May 2016. More recently he claimed successive wins over British rival David Haye at heavyweight, beating the odds on both occasions.
On one hand, Bellew headlined two big shows to earn millions of pounds as his profile rocketed. On the other, he vacated his world title to only box twice in two years during his physical peak, against an injured opponent with no belts on the line.
Meanwhile, Usyk has been busy beating up opponents in their hometowns. Krzysztof Glowacki (Poland), Michael Hunter (America), Marco Huck (Germany), Mairis Briedis (Latvia) and Murat Gassiev (Russia) have all been swept aside in their backyards during an incredible run of form.
Those triumphs over Briedis (MD) and Gassiev (UD) meant Usyk became the first undisputed cruiserweight champion since Evander Holyfield, adding the Ali Trophy to his collection in the summer.
Then he called out Bellew…
“I prepare myself for a long and hard bout,” Usyk explained to The Ring. “Bellew has a strong soul and he never stops coming. But it is difficult to hit something that disappears. I will use my legs to get out of danger and make my Ukrainian fans happy in victory.”
“I ain't going to tire. And nobody believes I can do it more than me,” Bellew told Sky Sports this week. “He'll find out what it's like to have someone in front of him who believes in themselves. I can be 10 rounds down and I'll get him – it will only take one lapse of concentration.”
Bellew’s improved with age and has developed into a smart tactician. He will also take confidence from the way Briedis and Hunter landed on the Ukrainian and will look to detonate that big left hook. Sometimes Usyk likes to drop his hands slightly to draw opponents in, then quickly move out of range to counter.
The last time Bellew faced a southpaw (Ilunga Makubu) he was knocked down in round one before winning in round three. When boxing a leftie, you're forced to change your defence and anticipate different movements, meaning ‘The Bomber’ could find himself defused.
The betting angles
Bookmakers don’t believe Bellew (9/2) will hear the final bell (10/11) but he’s only suffered one knockout loss in his career, which came against powerful puncher Adonis Stevenson (TKO6) down at light-heavyweight in 2013.
The Scouser has improved significantly since then under trainer Dave Coldwell, but that won’t be enough here. Usyk’s incredible technical ability – coupled with his four-inch reach advantage – will mean he can outbox Bellew by gradually picking him off from awkward angles and working the body.
Since stepping up in class, four of Usyk’s last six wins have come on points. A repeat is 7/4 but a unanimous decision verdict gets my vote at 11/4 (Coral).
Usyk has his eyes on Anthony Joshua and this is the first step to getting that megafight.
While a dominant Usyk points win is the most likely scenario, as a saver I’ll also be having a small go on Usyk to put the challenger away in rounds 10-12 at 15/2 (Bet365).
Usyk halted former cruiserweight king Huck in 10 rounds in his WBSS quarter-final, meaning four of his last six stoppage wins have come in the eighth round or later. If the Brit tires late on, Usyk could go for the finish and I’ve found a juicy longshot from Coral’s #YourCall market.
Bellew to be knocked down in the penultimate round and stopped in the 12th is worth a couple of quid at 50/1 (Coral). As mentioned, Makubu put him down at Goodison Park and he’s also touched the canvas in commonwealth title wins over Bob Ajisafe and Ovill McKenzie.