It was a dominant and powerful show of strength, resilience and skill from Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday as Tony Bellew became the fourth former world champion he has seen off in the ring to retain his IBF, WBA, WBC, and WBO titles
It was convincing. Behind on two of the judges' cards, not really showing any threat or potency that had been so talked about in the build-up to the fight, Usyk's thunderous eighth-round left hook drew the curtains on Bellew's brilliant career.
And now, Evander Holyfield, widely considered as the greatest cruiserweight of all time, has had his say after seeing the Ukrainian for the first time.
“It’s hard from the one fight to say I know everything about the guy, but [Usyk] finished real strong, and fights with sort of a laid back style whereas I was more aggressive," said Holyfield to Boxingscene.com.
"He’s going 12 rounds, but I was conditioned to 15. Looking at their fight, Usyk throws short punches, but not so many combinations, and I think my hands are faster than Usyk’s.
“I thought both of them fought flat-footed, didn’t throw a lot of combinations or fight at a real fast pace.
"My thing is I’m a gladiator who is gonna bring it, looking to apply pressure and throw a lot of hard combinations. I would be trying to blast either one of them outta there. I’m going to be going body, head, and the body again, also hitting you from different angles to make the guy uncomfortable. And if you missed me, I was gonna make you pay.”
Holyfield fought in an era where 15-round contests were a regular occurrence.
Thirteen of his 14 cruiserweight wins were scheduled to be 15-round affairs, but 12 of them didn't go the distance.
Holyfield moved onto conquer the heavyweight division as a five-time heavyweight world champion and a bronze medalist in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
His career included defeats of Mike Tyson and George Foreman, in a 25-year career that saw him win 44 fights, 29 by knockout, and lose 10.
Holyfield added: “Not saying I would be stronger than [Usyk,] but at 180 or so pounds, nobody else was doing was I was able to do or executing the way I was able to execute. I would bring it every time I fought, and not run or hide.
"My whole thing was to win every round, getting better as I go. So if the first round was hard, the next one and the one after that were gonna be even harder. I felt that I was gonna be stronger, throw more punches and flat out out-work everybody.”
Usyk's career is mirroring that of Holyfield quite nicely. 16-0 with seven knockouts in the cruiserweight division, holding all four belts and eyeing up the heavyweight division with Anthony Joshua a fight potentially on the cards in the not-too-distant future.
“I was a good outside fighter, but also a good inside fighter. I had to prove that against Dwight Qawi,” said Holyfield.
“You put your shoulder on the guy, slip in a shot and get around him to mess with his head. That’s how you hit a guy with that short shot. That six-inch shot’s the one he don’t see coming."
Holyfield's defeat of Qawi signalled the changing of the guard in the cruiserweight division as the Brit saw off Qawi, a more experienced fighter who, like Holyfield, ended up in the Hall of Fame.
The win saw Holyfield go to 12-0 with eight knockouts when he earned a first cruiserweight belt, whereas Usyk took just 10 fights, with nine of them not going the distance, when he defeated Krzysztof Glowacki to earn his first title belt.
“Fighting the bigger guys I always went for the body shot to break them down, because there is so much of them there, and the body’s never going to move. So if I’m shooting at the head, I’m gonna hit the body, too,” said Holyfield.
“And when I hit you to the body, it’s gonna hurt you the entire fight, not for just two or three seconds. I didn’t see a lot of that out of Usyk, and if he’s going to heavyweight, I think that’s a part of his game he’s gonna need. But that’s not to devalue Usyk as a fighter.
“We’re just talking about two different eras, and this is his era. This guy [Usyk] is the best of his time,” said Holyfield. “I’m not going to disrespect somebody buy saying ‘I would have done this or that to you,’ because, let’s face it, that's reality something that's never gonna happen.”News Now - Sport News