Belew put in a valiant effort, but ultimately suffered a stunning knockout
Oleksandr Usyk knocked out Tony Bellew with a sensational eighth-round left hook to retain his undisputed cruiserweight crown at Manchester Arena on Saturday night.
The Ukrainian superstar was tested by the Brit’s awkwardness early on, but soon adapted and eventually wore his opponent down, before producing the brutal finish.
The fight began with a tentative opening from both men as the pair attempted to find their range.
In the second, Bellew began to surprise onlookers by landing several, consecutive right hands and even taunting his much-feared opponent.
The Scouser made it clear that he was not in awe of his foe and even switched to southpaw halfway through, before continuing his supremacy in the third.
However, things began to turn from the fourth round onwards, as the champion wobbled the home favourite with a big left hook – a punch that would come back to haunt him later on.
The fifth saw some more consistency from Usyk as he solved the puzzle Bellew had presented early on.
Usyk carried his dominance through the sixth and seventh as the challenger began to slow down, taking an increasing amount of flush left hooks in the process.
In the eigthth, it all came crashing down for Bellew, as one giant left hook put him on the canvas and gave referee Terry O’Connor no option but to bring an end to the bout, and to Bellew’s fantastic career.
“I tried my best,” the former WBC king said post-fight. “I gave it everything I’ve got. He’s an exceptional fighter.
“Oleksandr Usyk is a great, great champion. I lost to one of the pound-for-pound best that ever done it. I have no excuses.
“You come up against great people in life and sometimes you lose, you’ve just got to accept it. He’s the best I’ve ever fought.
“Anyone who faces him in a lot of trouble.
When asked to confirm his retirement, the 35-year-old replied instantly: “It’s definitely the end for me.”
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Usyk also spoke after the finish, paying homage to the hostile crowd that had of course been rooting against him: “Thank you Tony, thank you Manchester, Great Britain I love you.
“No [I was not surprised by the difficult start] I was waiting for that, I knew he would do it like that because he had nothing to lose.
“I have had the most difficult year in my life, I want to relax, spend time with my family and then I will talk about my future.”
Earlier in the night Anthony Crolla defeated Daud Yordan on points to become WBA mandatory challenger for Vasyl Lomachenko.
Also on the card, Ricky Burns knocked out Scott Cardle and there were wins for Josh Kelly and Dave Allen.