Soon-to-be-retired Bellew eyes perfect farewell against Usyk

FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 file photo, Oleksandr Usyk presents his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts trophies after a press conference in Kiev,

FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 file photo, Oleksandr Usyk presents his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts trophies after a press conference in Kiev,

FILE- In this Thursday, May 3, 2018 file photo, Tony Bellew gestures during a press conference prior to the heavyweight bout against David Haye in Lon

FILE- In this Thursday, May 3, 2018 file photo, Tony Bellew gestures during a press conference prior to the heavyweight bout against David Haye in Lon

In Oleksandr Usyk, boxing has an unbeaten and rising star ready to further shake up a revitalized heavyweight division.

The Ukrainian fighter just has one last job to finish off at cruiserweight level.

Usyk makes the first defense of his four cruiserweight titles when he takes on Tony Bellew in Manchester on Saturday. It will only be Usyk's 16th professional fight, and likely his last in a division he unified in July.

The 31-year-old Usyk is planning to make the step up to heavyweight — the weight at which he won an Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London Games — and there's already talk of a fight against Anthony Joshua, the IBF, WBO and WBA titleholder.

This all sounds familiar to Bellew.

Just last year, Bellew climbed up from cruiserweight to heavyweight to fight David Haye, another boxer who intended to use Bellew as a way to get to a lucrative fight with Joshua.

Bellew upset the odds by knocking out Haye in the 11th round and then, in a rematch in May, stopping the former heavyweight champion in the fifth round.

The 35-year-old Liverpool native has already been world cruiserweight champion and has a 30-2-1 record. The fight against Usyk is set to be his last before retirement.

"One more night to survive through," Bellew said, "and then I go on to live the dream life with my family."

It could be the biggest night of his boxing career — and possibly the toughest.

Usyk, a southpaw, has risen virtually untouched through the professional ranks since leaving his amateur days behind him after the London Olympics. Eleven of his 15 wins have come inside the distance. As an amateur, he was also a world and European champion.

"This is the biggest test of my career," Bellew said. "He's won everything there is to win at amateur level, he's won everything there is to win at professional level, but he's going to lose on Saturday night. I'm going to break his spirit.

"He really does believe he's genuinely going to walk through me, and he's in for the fright of his life."

Given Bellew's improved standing in recent years and the fact the fight is being held in Britain, Usyk's profile is set to be bigger than ever if he wins. He was born in Crimea and has said he was forced to leave the peninsula after Russia annexed it from Ukraine in 2014.

He became undisputed cruiserweight champion after fighting three times in 10 months in the World Boxing Super Series, in which he beat Marco Huck, the then-WBC champion Mairis Briedis, and most recently Murat Gassiev in July. What stood out, in particular, during those wins was his remarkable footwork and movement that the aging Bellew could struggle with.

Comparing the two fighters' attributes, Bellew — the underdog — appears to have one major advantage: Experience.

And potentially another.

"Tony's left hook is the equalizer," the now-retired Haye has said in the build-up. "If Tony can land that left hook to the head, that left hook to the body, he can really get a foothold in this fight and turn the tide."

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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80