David Haye Exclusive: How to prepare against a fighter like Usyk
Betfair Ambassador David Haye returns to talk about the undisputed cruiserweight champion, Oleksandr Usyk, who fights Tony Bellew this weekend. Our man also reveals what it's like fighting a southpaw as an orthodox fighter...
"The one thing you need to know with Tony Bellew is he doesn’t look great aesthetically, but somehow, he finds a way to win. He finds your weaknesses and exploits them. So as unbeatable as Usyk looks physically, if anyone is going to beat him it’s going to be Bellew."
Getting to know Usyk
Oleksandr Usyk is the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world, 2012 Olympics gold medallist and pound-to-pound one of the best fighters on the planet.
His defensive abilities make him incredibly effective; he's a southpaw, he has good punch power and as an amateur he fought in the heavyweight division, opponents even included Joe Joyce, who admittedly he beat.
In terms of being able to absorb people's onslaughts, Usyk has a very canny way of just getting out of range and coming back with his own counter-punch.
He doesn't look that dangerous, but slowly and surely, he's breaking you down with those body shots, his angles make him a very awkward guy to fight and anybody that's shared the ring with him have said they just couldn't get to grips with him.
I was the last guy Tony stepped in the ring with but Usyk is very different to myself, most notably because of his stance. Where I am orthodox (right-handed) - so Tony could see everything that was coming his way - Usyk is a southpaw, it's very different.
For instance, the last southpaw Bellew fought was Ilunga Makabu and he got dropped, heavily. Even though Bellew eventually won, it shows you that he can be hurt, he can be dropped by a southpaw.
Although Tony has fought at Heavyweight in his last two fights, I was naturally a cruiserweight, I only moved up to Heavyweight once I had unified the division. So, Tony is yet to step in the ring with any monsters, whereas Usyk has. Campaigning at heavyweight in the Amateurs, Usyk is used to fighting bigger guys, but hopefully Bellew's speed, heart and enthusiasm will be enough to counter the technical ability of Usyk.
The one thing you need to know with Tony Bellew is he doesn't look great aesthetically, but somehow, he finds a way to win. He finds your weaknesses and exploits them. So as unbeatable as Usyk looks physically, if anyone is going to beat him it's going to be Bellew.
Preparing against a southpaw
I found whenever I fought a southpaw I needed to do lots of sparring. You need to inundate and immerse yourself by sparring this way and I think that's what Tony Bellew has done. It'll really make a difference come fight night.
I fought Audley Harrison who was an Olympic gold medallist, he was a southpaw, so I brought in Tony Thompson a very experienced heavyweight campaigner who had given Vladimir Klitschko and David Price nightmares.
You must rewire your defensive capabilities, with different angles, changing your defensive patterns, movements and counter-punching.
Moving weight around
I don't think there will be an issue with Bellew coming down to the cruiserweight category after going up around a stone in weight against myself last year, he didn't bulk up and do a lot of bodybuilding. He simply missed out the cutting phase, boiling down to the weight, he knows how to get the best out of himself in the cruiserweight division.
I believe he started camp very early; I saw him at the AJ fight and he looked in good shape already. He's fought at 175lbs for most of his career and he's a very experienced fighter. Dave Coldwell knows how to get his fighters into shape too, he has worked with Tony for five years.
Bellew knows that he will have to bring his best performance. The fight that he fought against me won't be good enough to beat Usyk.
Usyk is very, very dangerous, he's on a roll and he's in his peak. But Tony will be going into this fight with confidence, he riding high off his recent victories and he's going to feel invincible stepping into the ring. Just as the fight is billed - he who dares...
Take him to the latter rounds
If it was me going into the ring against Usyk, a tricky southpaw, I would not press the fight that much, I'd look for the movement.
I would shoot to his body as I've seen him hurt a few years ago with this strategy. A body assault could be very useful in the early rounds.
Hopefully, by rounds 7-12 you'd be putting the pressure and heat on him, if you get caught with a shot early, you're not going to leave yourself open to it again. Make him try and counter, and then counter that.