When you ask a boxer their aspirations for the future early in their pro careers, there are 2 answers that are churned out with predictable regularity.
I want to be world champion
I want to fulfil my potential and go as far as my talent allows
Boxing is a tough sport and not for the want of trying, the majority of would be champions stall in their quest to fulfil either desire.
Injuries, boxing politics, timing, taking the right fights at the right time, all play a hand in how a career unfolds – and unfortunately much more needs to fall into place, than a boxer simply giving their all.
On Saturday night in Manchester Tony Bellew came up short, not for the first time in his career, as he crashed to a knockout defeat and into retirement, courtesy of the left hand of Oleksandr Usyk.
While it was not the first time he has tasted defeat, on the previous occasions, arguments could be made for mitigating circumstance.
Against Nathan Cleverly in 2011 it was a tough close fight, with one judge scoring a draw in what was Bellew’s first foray into world class territory. By the time he met Adonis Stevenson 2 years later, he was no longer able to make light heavyweight comfortably and was perhaps only a shell of his real self, come fight night.
However in Manchester on Saturday, there were no mitigating reasons, no if only’s – just the simple fact that in Oleksandr Usyk, Bellew faced an opponent that was not just a World Champion, but one of the few fighters who could legitimately claim to be an Elite World Champion.
So while the defeat was both concussive and conclusive, there was absolutely no shame in Bellew losing to probably the best cruiserweight of his era and maybe even, of all time.
So what exactly did Tony Bellew achieve in his career?
Well; following 3 consecutive ABA titles at heavyweight, he turned to the professional ranks and racked up 16 straight victories on route to his first World title attempt, picking up Commonwealth and British Light Heavyweight titles along the way.
Losing a disappointing decision to Nathan Cleverly, Tony dusted himself down and worked himself back to a shot at the WBC, The Ring and the Lineal Light Heavyweight titles – when completely drained from making weight, he tasted defeat once more.
Yet again he rebuilt, going undefeated in 8 contests at Cruiserweight, during which he fulfilled his childhood dream in winning the WBC World Cruiserweight Title at Goodison Park – home of his beloved Everton FC.
Not content with his accomplishment, he climbed to heavyweight and secured his family’s future with huge payday’s in back to back crushing victories over former World Heavyweight Champion David Haye.
Then in the ultimate challenge on Saturday night, he returned to the division of his biggest success and faced a future hall of famer for the Undisputed Cruiserweight Championship of the World.
By my reckoning Tony Bellew more than fulfilled his potential and became World Champion along the way.
I’m pretty certain that if he had been offered that at the start of his career, he’d have grasp it with both hands.
Tony Bellew had a career to be proud of and he should have no regrets in his retirement.