Tony Bellew vowed to retire from boxing after Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk defended his WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO cruiserweight titles with an eighth-round knockout of the Brit in Manchester on Saturday.
Roared on by a passionate home crowd, Bellew started brightly and was ahead on two of the three judges scorecards when the fight was stopped.
But Usyk, who has never lost a professional fight, was the man getting stronger as the bout wore on and delivered the knockout blow with a left hand to leave Bellow floored.
“I walk away. I’ve been doing this for 20 years after 20 years it’s over,” said Bellew, 35, who won the WBC cruiserweight title in 2016 at Goodison Park, home of his beloved Everton football club.
“I gave it everything I had, he’s an exceptional champion. He’s everything I feared. He’s a great fighter, the best I’ve ever fought.”
Usyk, described as the “perfect boxer” by British heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua, is the first man to unify all four major world championships at cruiserweight.
“I sparred with him years ago in Ukraine and he beat me up then,” added Bellew.
“I haven’t learned my lesson, he’s exceptional. I tried my best but it wasn’t good enough.”
Usyk, who also won an Olympic gold medal at London 2012, takes his professional record to 16-0.
© Agence France-Presse (additional edits from Chris Kelleher)