Politics, politics. In what could prove to be bad news for Tony Bellew, and possibly frustrating news for Oleksandr Usyk, the recently crowned four-belt cruiserweight king may have to face Denis Lebedev next. According to Vadim Kornilov, manager of Lebedev (as reported by rsport.ria.ru, as picked up by talkSPORT) Usyk has been ordered by the WBA to face “Champion in Recess” Lebedev next.
As fans know, Bellew was hoping to get the chance to make British boxing history by fighting Usyk, beating him, and becoming the first British fighter to hold all four belts, at any weight, at the same time. And Usyk, fresh off his WBSS Muhammad Ali Trophy win, called out one man for his next fight: Bellew. Now, unless things can be worked out, unbeaten pound-for-pound star Usyk, 15-0(11), may well have to face tough old campaigner Lebedev next or be stripped of one of his four belts.
Lebedev, set to return to action on September 7 – against Hizni Altunkaya – this being the Russian southpaw’s first fight in well over a year, was a fine fighter, yet the wars seem to have caught up with him. In his most recent meaningful fight, Lebedev, 30-2(22) was beaten by Murat Gassiev, the man Usyk dominated in the WBSS final. Would Lebedev really have any shot at defeating Usyk?
A few years ago, back when he was beating guys like Santander Silgado and a pair of shot legends in Roy Jones and James Toney, maybe Lebedev would have been able to give Usyk a decent argument. But today – it looks like a potential mismatch; not to mention a needless one.
Usyk may well find out that winning all four belts was an easier feat than holding onto them. Usyk-Bellew may still go ahead next (and this is the fight both warriors want, and it is certainly a far more intriguing match-up than Usyk-Lebedev), but it might contest three cruiserweight world titles, not four.
It would be a real shame if Usyk was stripped, but it would perhaps be a bigger shame if Usyk fought Lebedev. Maybe Usyk will say the heck with it and make his move up to heavyweight sooner rather than later.