Tony Bellew insists Anthony Joshua will NEVER face a better boxer in his career than Oleksandr Usyk.
The unified world heavyweight champion defends his WBA, WBO and IBF world titles on September 25 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Usyk dominated the cruiserweight division, collecting and defending all of the belts in 2018 when he knocked Bellew out in Manchester.
The Ukrainian decided to move up to heavyweight a year later in the hope of replicating the feat, but injuries and the COVID-19 outbreak put the brakes on his move.
During that time, Joshua lost and then regained his heavyweight titles in his first professional loss to Andy Ruiz Jr and underwent a steep learning curve – ditching the excess muscles and spending more time developing his craft.
Like his Ukrainian counterpart, the 31-year-old is an Olympic Gold medallist from London 2012 yet he did not enjoy the extensive amateur career Usyk had.
Given Joshua’s rapid rise to the top, there is a certain element of learning on the job to still be done, but his willingness to learn, diligence and incredible physical attributes have propelled him to the top of the sport.
Yet Bellew had a word of warning for his compatriot before his acid test later this month in north London.
“This will be the best boxer Anthony Joshua will ever face in his career,” Bellew told Jim White.
“When it comes to natural, pure boxing, Oleksandr Usyk is the most natural boxer Anthony Joshua will ever face.
“He is unbelievable at what he does. Taking that into consideration, he is not a true heavyweight.
“Everyone keeps going on, yes he is a cruiserweight, but he is the greatest cruiserweight who has ever put on gloves.
“So he does come with an amazing skillset, but I just think weight divisions exist in boxing for a reason.
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“Come rounds seven, eight and nine, he is going to find out why he is not a true heavyweight. I think Anthony Joshua’s speed, power and perseverance will be what catches up with Oleksandr Usyk.
“I wish he would stop fighting my friends because I want to support him! I’m a huge admirer of him and I have so much respect for the boy, but he just keeps fighting my friends so I can’t support him.”