Boxing expert Chris Oliver is banking on Tony Bellew's ability to upset the odds as the Liverpudlian prepares to face Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday.
Tony Bellew has made a habit of proving the doubters wrong and bids to upset the odds one last time against Oleksandr Usyk at the Manchester Arena.
The popular Liverpudlian is adamant this will be his final fight and he faces his toughest test to date in the brilliant Ukrainian, who is a best price of 1/5 to extend his unbeaten record as a professional to 16. However, despite Bellew being a big underdog at 9/2, there is huge interest and intrigue in this cruiserweight showdown.
It is the first time all four recognised world titles have been on the line in a British ring, but, more importantly, it is Bellew's reputation for defying the odds that is drawing people in.
Usyk v Bellew: Tale of the tape & big-fight details
- Fight night: Saturday November 10
- Titles: WBA, WBC, IBF & WBO Cruiserweight titles
- TV Channel: Sky Sports Box Office (£19.95)
- TV Start time: Undercard from 6pm, Main event approx 10 GMT
- Radio coverage: BBC Radio 5 Live
- Venue: Manchester Arena
- Sky Bet odds: Usyk 1/8, Bellew 4/1, Draw 33/1 (Click to bet)
It looked unlikely the Everton fanatic would land a world title following two failed attempts at light heavyweight, but an impressive run of form after stepping up to cruiserweight culminated in him stopping the well-fancied Ilunga Makabu on a famous night at his beloved Goodison Park in 2016.
Following one defence, Bellew stepped up to heavyweight for an unlikely all-British grudge match against David Haye and upset favourite backers on two occasions. If his first victory has an asterisk against it due to the Hayemaker rupturing his Achilles tendon, he put an exclamation mark on the second as he dropped the former champion three times in a five-round demolition job.
Those performances have not only given Bellew celebrity status but his fans hope that he could pull off a surprise victory again. However, that hope could quickly erode once Usyk begins peppering his man with fluid combinations from all angles.
Boasting an engine and work-rate unheard of at the 200lb limit, Usyk also has the kind of skills we are more accustomed to seeing at lower weights, with his rapid hands and excellent punch variety making him hard to defend against. Like his countryman Vasyl Lomachenko, his biggest asset could be his sublime footwork, which allows him to switch up the angles of attack and retreat before the counter arrives.
The 31-year-old was given the chance to claim all four belts via the World Boxing Super Series tournament and emerged as a brilliant winner, stopping former title holder Marco Huck before outpointing unbeaten champions Maris Briedis and Murat Gassiev in fine style.
It was the latter performance in particular that had fans waxing lyrical over his talents as he disarmed and bamboozled the big-punching Russian with ease, barely caught himself in the process, and we could witness something very similar on Saturday. Bellew is the puncher in this fight and has the power to change everything with one blow, but landing his big shots will be a very different proposition to catching Mukabu or a slowed-down Haye.
Bellew will need to upset the rhythm and timing of the champion if he is to slow him down, but so far nobody has managed to do that for too long as they struggle to match the punch output of Usyk and this looks a step too far.
Having beaten Briedis and Gassiev in their own backyards, coming to England will hold no fears for Usyk, especially as he landed European and Olympic gold on these shores during a stellar amateur career.
At even-money for the stoppage, the layers are expecting him to get the job done inside the distance but he isn’t a huge puncher, rarely 'sitting down' on his shots and opting for volume rather than power.
Add this to the huge defensive improvements Bellew has made under trainer Dave Coldwell and how much sturdier he has looked since stepping up from light heavyweight, and the 7/4 about the champion retaining his belts via the scorecards makes much more appeal.
It's just over a year ago since Anthony Crolla outpointed Ricky Burns at this arena and both men feature on the undercard.
Crolla came out on top that night and could be in line for another world title shot by outworking and outpointing Daud Yordan, although that outcome is priced accordingly at 8/13 and Burns rates better value for the same method of victory against Scott Cardle.
Cardle is on a rebuilding mission after suffering a second defeat in devastating fashion at the hands of Lewis Ritson in March, while Burns also has to prove what he has left at 35 after bouncing back from the Crolla defeat with a routine stoppage win.
All the money has been for Burns this week and that could prove to be spot-on, with the popular Scotsman fancied to show his experience of competing at higher level to box his way to a 43rd career victory on points at 5/4.
Posted at 1145 GMT on 09/11/18.