Bellew bidding to bow out in perfect style
Humility has been a double-edged sword in the closing years of Tony Bellew's career. It has earned the Liverpudlian who often refers to himself as the "fat Scouser with a big gob" growing popularity with British fight fans.
Yet, even now, as the 35-year-old prepares for a swansong fight against the brilliant stylist Oleksandr Usyk, of Ukraine, holder of every cruiserweight title, Bellew is craving nothing more than a year out of the limelight, away from gyms, weight cuts and promoting fights with that "big gob" of his.
Looking lean and eagle-eyed, he is playing down his successes.
"I just struggle with the fame thing and people thinking I'm something I'm not," explains Bellew.
"I'll always struggle with that until the day I die, I think. I'm happy for people to rate and rank me as they want, but it will never come from my mind.
"It's crazy to think I did that ('Creed')," Bellew reflects. "It came on the TV a couple of weeks ago and I sat there with my little boy watching it and I couldn't believe I've done this. It's still hard to come to terms with the fact I've been in a Rocky movie. I'm very honoured and privileged to have experienced that because I could never have imagined such things as a kid."
In Usyk, Bellew is up against one of the leading pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, a boxer who won the Olympic heavyweight title in London in 2012, every amateur title available, and is unbeaten in 15 contests as a professional. Fast, mobile, big for the weight, he is a left-handed fighter who has a phenomenal work-rate.
Few believe Bellew can win against Usyk, who will be watched by an estimated 15 million compatriots, a 40pc share of the television audience, on Ukraine's national state channel.
"No matter what I do in this fight, I'll never be the greatest cruiserweight ever," Bellew says. "Even if I knock him out in 20 seconds, I shouldn't even be mentioned alongside the likes of Evander Holyfield."
It could be the perfect send-off if Bellew can find that opening, a moment of perfection to end his ring career. It is in his hands. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Oleksandr Usyk v Tony Bellew, Live, Sky Box Office, from 6.0