MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk remained undisputed world champion champion on Saturday with an eighth round stop by British underdog Tony Bellew at the Manchester Arena.
The Olympic heavyweight gold medal from 2012 stunned Bellew with a right to his head before he pushed a looping to the left to send him crashes to the tablecloth and eventually to retirement.
British referee Terry O'Connor entered and stopped the match, with 31-year-old Usyk who extended his professional record to 16-0-0.
In a match that was evener than most expected, Bellew was ahead of 67-66 68-65 on two of the scorecards and levels 67-67 on the third entered the crucial round after emerging from the start.
The British, a former world-champion who moved to heavyweight and twice-lucky land champion and former world champion David Haye, paid an emotional tribute to his Southpaw rival.
"I tried my best. I gave everything I have," Bellew told the audience, acknowledging that he did not know how round it was or how he had fallen.
"Make sure you clap him because he is an outstanding fighter … one of pound-for-pound's best. He beat me fair and square, I have no excuses.
He is a great champion, the best man I've ever shared a ring with. He's just better than me.
Unsure, the first man who holds IBF, WBO, WBA and WBC belts at the same time has not made any secret that he wants to move to heavyweight and challenge Britain's governor Anthony Joshua.
"Taking Usyk into heavyweights will give a new spirit to the heavyweight division. He definitely needs to fight against Anthony Joshua," said Ukrainian promoter Alex Krassyuk.
Joshua, who holds WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight belts, was the Olympic super-heavyweight champion in 2012.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing Greg Stutchbury)