Aleksandr Usyk is closing in on a high-profile clash with Tony Bellew in the United Kingdom following the Ukrainian’s standout performance in the recent World Boxing Super Series.
Taking home the Ali Trophy in fine style last month, Usyk cemented his place as the best cruiserweight on the planet and immediately turned his attention to man who ruled at 200 pounds before moving up to heavyweight.
Usyk called out Bellew when lifting the coveted crown in Russia and wants the Briton to move back down in weight for a massive Pay-Per-View contest.
Bellew, who briefly held the WBC championship following a Goodison Park KO of Junior Makabu, headed north for two victories over David Haye but is willing to compete in the lower division for the Usyk encounter.
Egis Klimas, Usyk’s manager, has now confirmed the unified title holder will not be heading to heavyweight just yet.
“We are making progress and getting closer to making Usyk v Bellew in the UK,” Klimas exclusively told World Boxing News.
“We’re aiming for a date in November and negotiations are for a fight in the cruiserweight division.”
Asked whether there was any chance Usyk could have competed in the second World Boxing Super Series just announced and whether the undefeated puncher intends to relinquish his four straps after the Bellew battle, Klimas replied:
“No, this bout was never to be part of the WBSS but it will be Usyk’s first defense for all titles.
“At this moment, there are no plans and no sense for Usyk to vacate titles as after Bellew good bouts can be made at the weight.
“There is always more interest and more money for bouts with titles involved,” he explained.
One of those possible opponents after Bellew is Andre Ward, who didn’t rule out a comeback when speaking to WBN recently.
The American former pound for pound king did have some thoughts on the forthcoming bout, having stated his view that Bellew should insist Usyk agrees to fight at heavyweight.
“In terms of Usyk and Bellew, that’s a good fight. He and I have a relationship (Bellew); we’re not like best friends or anything but there is a mutual respect there,” Ward exclusively told World Boxing News.
“First of all, I think Bellew is in any fight he is in, I don’t think there is any fight where you feel like he doesn’t have a shot at winning.
“Having said that, If I were advising Bellew, I do think it would benefit him to take the fight at the weight he’s been fighting at for the past couple of years, which is heavyweight.
“You can’t campaign at a certain weight for over a year and strip it down 20 or 30 lbs and still think you’re going to have success. You may make the weight, but when you make the weight, what are you going to have left?
“I do get chasing the four belts and in theory that makes sense. Like ‘okay this is my last fight’ which is what he’s said publicly, ‘I win all the belts and make history and go out on top’ but realistically I’m not sure that makes sense,” Ward continued.
“It may make sense to say ‘it would be a great feat to go down and make history, but you got to come to me’. Usyk has to come to Bellew if he wants the fight as Bellew has the fanbase and is in the driver’s seat.
“Usyk is a great fighter, but he’s not really known in the UK or the US, I think he’s known where he is from but outside of that he’s not a household name and that gives Bellew the bargaining power. If you put Usyk’s name up against Bellew’s there’s no comparison.” he added.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay