Neil Leverett spoke to Tony Bellew on Fury-Joshua and also in regard to Oleksandr Usyk and where the heavyweight division will go next.
In your opinion, why do you think Fury all of a sudden introduced a deadline that he knew AJ’s team wouldn’t be able to meet?
Tony: “To be honest… it was pretty clear from the start that [Tyson] Fury didn’t really want this fight to happen; and I don’t think he thought that AJ would agree to all the terms and dates put in front of him. But he did. So the last-minute deadline felt like a final way for Fury to stop the fight from happening – and the only way to prevent it from taking place seeing that both promoters were keen for it to take place – and still are.
“Furthermore, the fact that it’s the end of September already and a fight like this needs a lot more than a couple of months build up – in fact, much more!
“Something of this magnitude needs to be built up slowly and gradually, giving boxing fans a proper insight in the run-up to the fight – from press conferences to behind-the-scenes footage in training camps and other stories. And even though we know a lot about these two fighters already, it does need a big, big build up. And it’s impossible to get that done between now and then.
“These two fighters are the legends of our country, the heavyweight division of this era, so it will be great to see it built to a place in the right kind of stadium; and that can’t be rushed.
“Joshua was ready to go ahead – he has all to prove and nothing to lose so there’s little point for him to back down. Furthermore, fitness wise, AJ is a machine. He doesn’t need any warmup fights, he’s good to do whenever; he’s always in shape and he always wants the next best and biggest possible challenge.
“And when the next biggest possible challenge is Tyson Fury, he’s not going to shy away from that. But for some reason, Fury never truly wanted this fight; so whether it was a way to create headlines or something else, I don’t know. But it was always a bit strange that Fury went for AJ, seeing that apart from his popularity, AJ hasn’t got anything that Fury wants – if anything it’s the other way around. So this was purely about money and a big pay cheque.
“But the fact that Fury was making a big song and dance about AJ purposely delayed signing the contract is questionable seeing that AJ agreed to every single part of it; yes verbally, but everyone knows, including Fury, that AJ and his team wouldn’t go back on that…and for Fury, that’s a dangerous game to play and it’s not the first time Fury puts Joshua and his camp in this situation.
“I doubt this fight will ever happen – not this year, not next and not the year after that.”
When the announcement of the negotiations for Fury and Joshua were made, fairly soon after, Usyk called out [Deontay] Wilder essentially. Do you think he’s trying to dodge Fury? Is he looking for an easy opponent? Does he want to hold the title for longer?
Tony: “Fury is the greatest heavyweight of his generation right now. However, for him to really truly define an era and a generation, he has to defeat Oleksandr Usyk. And considering Usyk is just a middleweight, I don’t see a problem really. But for some reason, Fury is worried, which is why he’s not taking the fight and instead, at that point he opted for AJ, which is a strange move.
“But anyone he beats next, whether it’s [Manuel] Charr or AJ or anyone else, he has to beat Usyk so technically, any other fight is pointless and would simply be a cash grab. And if it’s all about cash, the wisest move would to have gone ahead with the AJ fight.”
Usyk, he is an incredible fighter, everyone knows it and everyone can see it. So, do you think Tyson Fury is the only man that could beat Usyk at the moment?
Tony: “Of course, if Deontay Wilder lands that punch, he’s going to win. You can never write him off. As I say, I give him a very even chance, because Usyk is that good, and he will see the punches coming from that far away. Tyson, in retrospect and reality, no one should beat Tyson Fury. If I was six foot nine and weighed 20 stone, I’d invade Russia, never mind f***ing box. So, when you’re that big and that heavy, you should not be beaten.
“It’s a very true saying, a good big man will always beat a good little man, it’s just how good can the little man be. I believe Oleksandr Usyk is the only person right now who’s got a thoroughbred chance of defeating Tyson Fury. I believe Fury can lose, because I’ve seen him on the floor and hurt too many times to weaker fighters and lesser fighters than himself. I’ve seen him pushed all the way. So, I do believe other people could beat Tyson Fury, but I do think there’s only one person that could beat Oleksandr Usyk.”