TONY BELLEW reckons a boxing referee saved his LIVE.
That’s after his 2018 battle against Oleksandr Usyk was waved off following a monster punch from the Ukrainian.
Bellew, 40, stepped into the ring five years ago against the now-WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO world heavyweight champion.
Both men put on a spectacle of boxing with some heavy hooks and strong swings.
The punch sent the Brit sprawling to the canvas, with most men unlikely to recover.
But Bellew defied the odds to beat the countdown and get back on his feet.
Even so, he didn’t seem to know what planet he was on despite bravely insisting he was ready to continue.
And referee Terry O’Connor made the decision to wave off the contest, handing Usyk the win.
Bellew was not pleased with the decision at the time.
But he now admits it was the correct one, even claiming that O’Connor “saved my life” as a result.
Speaking on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, Bellew lifted the lid on taking a punch from one of the world’s top boxers.
And he thanked O’Connor for making the big call to end the bout, saying: “Too hard (fighting against Usyk).
“Obviously he’s amazing. I’ve fought stronger people, I’ve fought quicker people, but I’ve never fought someone like him who has got everything. He works you out.
“He downloads what you do. He’s downloading all the data in front of him. It takes him three rounds to do it.
“With me, it took him eight. And then he does it, he pulled the trigger.
“But I was exhausted. I remember everything up until round seven. I don’t remember round eight.
“No (Usyk doesn’t hit hard), I was up at six (count). He didn’t knock me clean out.
“I got up at six. Thank God the ref didn’t let me (continue) because he’d have killed me.
“The ref literally saved my life. Next shot probably puts me away for good.
“So boxing at the highest level in the professional business is brutal. My priority was to make it home safe. After that it was to win at all costs.”