Oleksandr Usyk called Tony Bellew “the hardest test” when he reflected on their memorable fight of 2018.
The world heavyweight champion – then the undisputed king of cruiserweight – traveled to the UK to defend his titles against the Briton who troubled him early on.
The bout began with an attempt to open up from the two as the pair tried to find their lineup.
In the second, Bellew began to surprise spectators by landing several straight straight hands and even making fun of his much-feared opponent.
The Scouser made it clear he was unimpressed with his nemesis and even shifted to a left-hander position halfway through, before continuing his supremacy in the third.
However, things started to change from round four, as the champion wavered the home favorite with a big left hook – a prophetic punch that would come back to haunt him again later.
The fifth saw a bit more consistency from Usyk as he now seemed to have solved the puzzle that Bellew presented at the start.
Usyk maintained his dominance until the sixth and seventh as the challenger began to slow down, taking an increasing amount of chase hooks in the process.
In the eighth, everything fell apart for Bellew.
A giant left hook put him on the canvas and gave referee Terry O’Connor no choice but to end the fight and Bellew’s fantastic career.
“I did my best,” Bellew said after the fight. “I gave him everything I had. He is an exceptional fighter and he deserves all the awards in the world.
“Oleksandr Usyk is a big, big champion and I lost to one of the best pound for pound that ever did.
“He’s fantastic, he narrowly beat me. I have no excuse.
“You meet great people in life and sometimes you lose, you just have to accept it.
“He’s the best I’ve ever fought. Anyone who faces him in a lot of trouble.
When asked to confirm his retirement, Bellew immediately replied, “This is definitely the end for me.”