After Saturday night’s defeat to Oleksandr Usyk, Tony Bellew has confirmed that his boxing career was “over” but insisted he had surpassed his dreams and “won in life” during a touching news conference.
The 35-year old briefly said he felt a “failure” because of his eighth-round stoppage defeat against the undisputed cruiserweight world champion.
Bellew’s wife Rachael instantly shouted from the back of the news conference that he “hadn’t failed at all”, while Bellew’s father also yelled words of praise.
“It’s definitely over, you’ll not see me in a ring again,” said a sobbing Bellew.
“Now I just want to be normal, so please leave me alone.
“No one who knows me calls me Tony, I’ve always been Anthony to them. Tony Bellew exists for these cameras really. Tony Bellew died tonight, it’s Anthony that’s left.
“I have won. I sit here as a loser, heartbroken, but I have won in life. When I was expelled in school, I had nothing, with nowhere to go. Now my family are millionaires. I never dreamed this would be possible.”
A win over Usyk would have made Bellew the first Briton to hold four world titles in a weight division.
During a 40-minute news conference, he began to cry when thanking his mother and father, who he cites as his motivation during years as a young boxer. His dad shouted he was the “best son”, adding: “I’m proud of you lad.”
Trainer Dave Coldwell fought back tears when stating his fighter was part of “the best five years” of his life, while promoter Eddie Hearn pointed to moments where Bellew’s career was on a knife-edge long before he realised his dream of becoming a world champion in 2016.
“Tonight, I watched a great fighter,” said Hearn. “Someone who has improved so much. He has gone from being not at world level as we saw when he fought Nathan Cleverly in 2014, to elite level. We are so proud of this man and what he has achieved.”
Bellew’s eye-catching start saw him lead on two of the three judges’ scorecards when the stoppage arrived, prompting him to concede: “I got tired for the first time in my career.”
He insisted moments of showboating in the ring were designed to frustrate his opponent rather than influence the sold-out crowd, while Usyk later admitted he was working hard not to be drawn into “fighting” rather than “boxing” early in the contest.
Bellew added: “No excuses, I won’t make any. I lost to the best fighter I have ever faced. I am not weight drained. He was awkward, intelligent. He fell for my traps a few times. But ultimately he got me.
“He is potentially the greatest cruiserweight that’s ever lived. For me, it is always Evander Holyfield but Usyk’s done what no other cruiserweight has ever done by having all four belts.”