Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk: Tony Bellew issues warning to AJ

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Tony Bellew has warned Anthony Joshua that he now faces an even stiffer test when he squares off against mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk later this year, now that a significant figure has rejoined the Ukrainian's camp.

Anatoly Lomachenko is most famous these days for being the father of pound-for-pound standout Vasyl Lomachenko. However, before his son become a star in the professional ranks, Anatoly was a key coach of Ukraine’s Olympic boxing team.

The elder Lomachenko helped Vasyl to two straight gold medal wins at the Olympics (in 2008 and 2012), but also helped mentor other members of the squad. Among Anatoly's other charges was Usyk, who he guided to victory in the heavyweight division at London 2012.

Since Vasyl turned professional, however, Anatoly has placed his focus on his son. For the vast majority of his 18 fights as a paid competitor, Usyk has had to make do without the guidance of his trusted amateur coach.

The 34-year-old hasn't done badly in his absence, either. Unbeaten since his 2013 debut, Usyk now finds himself as the next man in line to challenge unified heavyweight champion Joshua. The pair are expected to meet on September 25 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Read more: Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk: Date, Odds, Tickets, Stats, Live Stream, Card And Everything You Need To Know

Crucially, though, when Usyk makes his ring walk against Joshua in London, he will once again be joined by Anatoly Lomachenko.

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Joshua's good friend (and former Usyk opponent) Tony Bellew recently sat down with talkSPORT to discuss the bout - and the Liverpudlian stressed how important the presence of Anatoly could be to Usyk come fight night.

"It’s a hard fight, I’m not gonna lie. It’s a very, very hard fight, insisted Bellew. "If anything, it’s just got even harder because Usyk has now gone back with Lomachenko’s father.

"That makes it even harder because they will create a game plan that is gonna try and negate everything good that Anthony Joshua does. They’re gonna try and take everything away from him".

Bellew knows all about how devastating Usyk can be in the ring having suffered a devastating knockout defeat to him in November 2018 - in the final fight of the Brit's career.

"That’s what Usyk does so well. He takes away your strengths before he looks at implementing his own strengths. And by taking away your strengths, you’re lost. The things he does with his feet – he’s exceptional.

"So I think it’s a really hard fight, I think it’s really dangerous," admitted Bellew.

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Where was Anthony Joshua born?

With that said, the former world cruiserweight champion is still backing AJ to get the job done when it matters.

"I think Anthony Joshua will be down on points when he catches up with him. I think he will catch up with him between rounds six and ten – I really do.

"I just think the size is too much, I just think the speed and the power will be too much. The thing about Anthony Joshua is he’s now becoming a student of the game. He’s putting in extra time, studying. He’s watching the old school fighters.

"Physically, I would say the best athlete the heavyweight division has seen in 20 years. Without a shadow of a doubt. All he needs to click up on now is his actual boxing IQ and that’s getting better and better.

"He’s gonna have to implement speed and force against Usyk. There is no other way around it. There’s no easy way to beat this guy," Bellew warned.

The reasons behind Bellew's caution are understandable. The last time Anatoly Lomachenko was in Usyk's corner, he thoroughly outclassed Murat Gassiev to become the undisputed world cruiserweight champion. If the pairing can pull off a similar success against Joshua, then Usyk will become a unified champion in a second weight class. Before Joshua gives any thought to a showdown with Tyson Fury, he needs to negotiate a tricky task in the shape of Usyk.

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