Oleksandr Usyk v Tony Bellew Saturday, 22:00 Live on Sky Sports
Fight fans fear the worst
The eyes of the sporting world will fall on Manchester this weekend as boxing great Oleksandr Usyk puts his four cruiserweight world titles on the line against plucky challenger Tony Bellew. What has been a refreshingly respectful build-up, critics have cried mismatch, boxing experts believe Bellew is in way over his head and some are even worried for the Englishman's safety.
Traders are also dead against the chances of Bomber, confident enough to offer him as a big priced outsider, but it'll all count for nothing upon the ringing of the first bell. The fight game is littered with David vs Goliath-like tales of heroic upsets. Are we set to witness another here?
Bellew's record demands respect
Let's start with what we know. Tony Bellew is a respected fighter in the cruiserweight division and one bringing a professional record of 30 wins, two defeats and one draw. The 6ft 3inch orthodox boxer from Liverpool has been involved in some classic bouts since making his professional debut with the second round stoppage of Jamie Ambler back in 2007.
He won each of his first 16 outings, before running into Welshman Nathan Cleverly, a fight he lost at light heavyweight on a majority decision. Tough to take, but Bellew avenged that result three years later when beating the same opponent on a split in the higher weight category. His only other loss came at the hands of Adonis Stevenson - halted in six November 2013 - and well-schooled followers of the sport will tell you there's no shame in that.
The 35-year-old arrives on the back of a 10-bout winning run, covering five years. Despite that form backers will find him available at 6.00 on the Betfair Exchange to grab a 31st - and easily most impressive - win of his career. Sure to attract a few patriotic pounds. Those playing the method of victory market can fill their boots on Bellew by KO/TKO at 5/1 or 14/1 the home points decision, both available on the Betfair Sportsbook.
Those new to Usyk are in for a treat
Oleksandr Usyk may not be terribly well known amongst casual fight fans, those who turn up for the big events, but if you haven't seen the Ukrainian perform already and have any interest in the noble art, seek out his footage - you're in for a treat. The 31-year-old has fought less than half the number of bouts of the man in the opposite corner, but he hasn't put a foot wrong since debuting in 2013, winning each of his first 15 despite being fast-tracked to the top of the division.
The 31-year-old southpaw achieved just about everything he set out to in the amateur ranks, winning gold at the Olympics in 2012, World Championships Baku 2011 and European Championships Liverpool 2008. That previous success on British soil should explain why he doesn't seem fazed about taking on Bellew in his own backyard. Since turning pro he has added the WBO Inter-Continental title to his trophy cabinet, as well as WBO, WBC, WBA and IBF world belts. That has been no fluke either with 11 of his wins coming inside the distance.
A fearsome 73% KO average is sure to give Team Bellew plenty to think about as fight night approaches and punters are in no mood to take the defending champion on with any conviction, 1.20 going on the Betfair Exchange. Another KO/TKO is a market best price evens on the Sportsbook, the points verdict 13/8.
Tony looking for a legacy
Tony Bellew may have bitten off more than he can chew with Usyk but he has to be given maximum respect for sharing a ring with one of the most avoided fighters in the higher weights. Few fancy matching the all-conquering Ukrainian but Bomber has promised to not only match him, but beat him.
The titles at stake and money on the table don't seem to impress him, he's a man looking to cement his legacy and the best way to do that would be to defeat Usyk in front of the watching world.
It's a fine story but, unfortunately, it seems the stuff of fiction. Oleksandr is a genuine all-rounder with polished boxing skills and genuinely dangerous power. This isn't a movie, if Bellew gets caught he will be hurt. It shouldn't be the quick knockout many have predicted, but I'd be surprised to see it go the distance. Back Usyk in rounds 9-12 at 7/2 (Sportsbook)