In a solid chess match of cruiserweight warriors, undefeated Oleksandr Usyk (16-0-0) knocked out Tony Bellew (30-3-1) with a left hook in the eighth round in front of Bellew’s hometown crowd of Manchester to retain his WBC, IBF, WBA, WBO and Ring Magazine titles.
The first three rounds of the fight had Bellew seemingly controlling the action with good movement and sound counterpunching. Bellew connected some body shots that didn’t appear to inflict significant damage on Usyk, but which allowed him to control the pace.
As the fight went on, Usyk started stalking Bellew and connecting better punches.
The momentum on the fight appeared to go Usyk’s way at some point between the sixth and seventh round, with Bellew starting to look like he could no longer keep Usyk off of him.
In the eighth round, Usyk was clearly in charge and connected a series of punches that put Bellew in trouble. The end came when Usyk connected a left hook from which it was clear that Bellew would not get up.
Bellew was the epitome of sportsmanship during the post-fight interview, when he told Usyk that he was the best fighter he had ever fought, hugged him and kissed him in the forehead.
I scored the fight 67-66 in favor of Bellew after seven rounds.
The future looks bright for the 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk, who may be considering a move to the heavyweight division.
Crolla vs. Yordan
In the final eliminator for the WBA Lightweight World Title, Anthony Crolla took home a unanimous decision over Daud Yordan to earn the opportunity to challenge WBA lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko. It was an entertaining fight from the first bell, with both fighters exchanging punches at a torrid pace all the way to the end.
Crolla was able to take control of the fight early, but Yordan came on strong in the final rounds, taking the fight to the distance.
All three judges saw Crolla win the fight with scores of 116-112.
Burns vs. Cardle
Earlier in the evening, former world champion Ricky Burns scored a third-round knockout over Scott Cardle by connecting a right straight that sent Cardle to the canvas. Cardle was able to get up before the count but referee Michael Alexander stopped the fight after judging that Cardle could no longer continue. The stoppage came at 2:06 of the round.
Overall, a solid night of boxing at the Manchester Arena.
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