Tony Bellew steps into the ring for Saturday’s world title challenge and the toughest fight of his life insisting he is not in awe of opponent Oleksandr Usyk.
The former WBC world cruiserweight champion says his self-confidence has never been higher after two stoppage wins over rival Englishman David Haye at heavyweight.
Bellew (30-2-1, 19 KOs), 35, from Liverpool, begins the underdog for his shot at WBC-WBA-IBF-WBO world cruiserweight champion Usyk at the Manchester Arena, England.
“Believe me, I’m not in awe of this man, I do not fear this man and I will not stand there and let him rattle five and six punch combinations off my head,” Bellew told ESPN.
“That cannot happen. This fella will feel what I’ve got. At no moment will I feel I’m beaten — no chance.
“I still feel only one fighter really beat me and that was Adonis Stevenson so I’ve got a massive amount of belief in myself.
“Some say I’m arrogant, some say I’m deluded. Not at all, I just keep fighting and winning and try to be the best version of me, and I will be the best version of me when I get in that ring on November 10 against Oleksandr Usyk, the most formidable foe, professional or amateur.
“This guy is my hardest ever opponent and it will show — but I believe I will find a way.”
Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs), 31, arrives with a fearsome reputation and is being talked about as a future opponent for Bellew’s fellow Briton Anthony Joshua, the WBA-IBF-WBO world heavyweight champion.
Bellew’s self-belief was boosted by his wins over Haye, a former WBA world heavyweight champion, and they encouraged him to put retirement plans on hold so he could take on the Ukrainian cruiserweight recognised as one of the best boxers in the world.
As he approaches fights, Bellew feeds off anger and he is annoyed that some have not given him enough credit for his stoppage wins over Haye.
“Some people have asked me do you think I got David Haye at the right time, but nobody said it was the right time when he weighed in with a six-pack, looking fantastic,” Bellew told ESPN.
“Nobody said it was the right time when he absolutely flattened Mark De Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj, they said they were fearing for my health. Was it the right time because I beat him? Or was it not just because I was better than him on the night?
“I’ve always believed in myself and always been called mouthy, an upstart, a f***ing big mouth because I’ve never had a marquee name on my record.
I’M ALSO READY! 🔥 https://t.co/hUcQeEdx9F
— Alexander Usyk (@usykaa) July 22, 2018
“Now I feel like I’ve beat some really good fighters, former world champions in Nathan Cleverly, world title contenders in Edison Miranda, Isaac Chilemba and I never got the credit for beating Ilunga Makabu like I should have because of the fashion that I did it in — I rendered him unconscious.
“The credit is coming from some but some still don’t want to give it because it’s David Haye. The guys who genuinely didn’t want me to win are the guys who won’t give me credit. But I don’t really give a s***, it doesn’t pay my bills either way, doesn’t do anything for me.
“Of course it gave me belief but I always knew I could beat David Haye.
“I could also lose to lesser fighters than David Haye, based on the fact that styles make fights. Just because I beat David Haye doesn’t make me a great fighter, I’m still the same fighter that I was.”