Oleksandr Usyk vs Carlos Takam: Can Usyk Make it as a Heavyweight?
By: Waqas Ali
Former unified world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk will be making his first debut as a heavyweight against Carlos Takam on May 25th at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, USA.
The bout will be aired live on the DAZN streaming service.
The 32-year-old Ukrainian fighter achieved stardom in the cruiserweight division – holding the WBO, WBA, WBC, IBF and the Ring Magazine titles simultaneously.
Without a doubt, Usyk is one of the best talents in boxing today and brings a variety of skills, styles and techniques that really cluster the meat of his talent.
He is praised by boxing writers, historians and hardcore boxing fans.
He currently boasts a record of 16 wins with 12 KOs.
His last fight was against Briton Tony Bellew in November 2018 whom he knocked out in round eight in front 20,000 fans at the Manchester arena.
Usyk does not deny the challenge and wants to aim high in order to achieve greatness in the heavyweight division.
“It’s a tough first fight,” said Usyk.
“But I need to test myself against world-class opposition on my new road to undisputed.”
His opponent Takam (36-5-1) has competitive opponents in the past such as Tony Thompson, Joseph Parker, Dereck Chisora and hard-hitting, Anthony Joshua.
Takam took Joshua to ten rounds with good shots thrown at him but lost in the end.
However, in regards to Usyk facing him in May, Takam feels highly motivated for the opportunity.
“I can promise that this will be a great fight and I will provide Usyk with a huge test on his heavyweight debut,” he said.
“I have huge ambitions of my own in the division and this fight will provide me with the chance to prove that.”
But can Usyk, a former Olympic champion and former undisputed champion succeed in a division that is known more for power and will than skill and mindset?
One must keep in mind that Usyk had actually fought in the heavyweight division previously as an amateur.
In 2013, Usyk defeated future Olympic Silver medallist Joe Joyce in a five-round battle without the use of handguards at the World Series of Boxing event.
He used his straight left hand to win points and provided exchanges too. As a cruiserweight, Usyk is known for his high activity level and astonishing footwork.
There was little activity rate in the bout with Joyce and more pot-shots were executed.
Many question if Usyk’s footwork will drastically change in 200 plus division and will the speed remain against the bigger fighters.
Fighters such as Evander Holyfield and David Haye both unified the cruiserweight division. Haye won the WBA heavyweight title and defended it twice. Holyfield went on to also unify the heavyweight division.
Roy Jones Jr, one of boxing’s greatest fighters of all time went from winning titles at middleweight, light heavyweight and at heavyweight.
He became the first fighter in 106 years to go from winning a title at middleweight all to the way to heavyweight.
By the numbers, Usyk throws an astounding 41 jabs per round which is double what the average heavyweight (20) throws.
Usyk has landed 19% of his total punches to the body.
In the power punching department, Usyk throws around 28 punches and connects at a rate of 42%. While the average heavyweight throws around 24 and connects at 40%.
Usyk opponents landed 29% of their power punches which is well below the cruiserweight avg (37%).
Takam relies on the power punch. 10 of his 13 landed punches are power shots. His opponents have landed 38% of their power shots.
The numbers indicate that Usyk does lead slightly ahead than what the average heavyweight throws and lands. However, this will all depend on next how well he does against the heavyweights. The activity level could in question. Sometimes when it comes moving up in weight, the activity level can go down. Fighters like Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury weigh a median of 17st 2lbs and a median height of 6 foot 7 whilst Usyk only comes in around 14 stone at 6 foot 3 inches. Even if Usyk comes in a stone up it will be a challenging and a hazardous process to take. Nobody can deny the talent that Usyk brings to the table and no doubt he has made the decision in fighting Takam in order to get a taste of the heavyweight division once again but on a professional level.