By: Hans Themistode
The heavyweight division was slowly evolving from a jumbled mess to a much clearer picture. By all accounts, WBC/Ring Magazine titlist, Tyson Fury, was set to take on unified champion Anthony Joshua this coming Summer.
Those plans, of course, were recently derailed as former belt holder Deontay Wilder has effectively moved ahead of Joshua and will now face Fury in a third showdown between the pair thanks to arbitrator Daniel Weinstein. But while most of the boxing world has grown apoplectic with the postponement of Joshua vs Fury, heavyweight contender Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) couldn’t stop himself from smiling.
The Ukrainian native has long been awaiting his chance to fulfill his own dreams of becoming a heavyweight belt holder. Even with a mandated position by the WBO, Usyk reluctantly moved out of the way to allow their undisputed showdown to take place while he, in turn, would face former amateur rival, Joe Joyce.
Although it’s been mostly mums the word behind the scenes, both team Usyk and Joyce have dealt with a number of speed bumps along the way to making their showdown a reality. Now, however, with Fury out of the picture, Usyk doesn’t see the value in staying the course.
“We were going through negotiations with Joe Joyce’s team,” said Alexander Krassyuk, manager of Usyk to BoxingInsider.com during a recent interview. “But, things were not going so smoothly financially. According to our calculations, the percentage of the purse split was 93% to 7% in favor of Usyk. But, the WBO ruling was that a fighter cannot receive less than 20%. Joyce’s team went to the grievance committee of the WBO and said that 80-20 was not fair. We were supposed to have the hearing but it makes more sense for Usyk to fight the champion, Anthony Joshua. I’m in negotiations with Eddie Hearn to put a date together and put the figures together.”
For as badly as Usyk wants to wrap heavyweight gold around his waist, Krassyuk believes his fighter has been more than fair. Time and time again, the former Olympic gold medalist shoved his dreams to the side in order to placate the wishes of Joshua.
In a bid not to stir the pot, Krassyuk details the long two-year wait his Ukrainian star endured.
“We gave Joshua many breaks,” explained Krassyuk. “If you take a look back at 2019, Usyk was appointed the mandatory when Andy Ruiz was the champion but Usyk allowed AJ to have the rematch with Ruiz. After AJ got back his belts, the immediate mandatory clause was sanctioned by the WBO. The IBF sanctioning body and Kubrat Pulev were also mandatory and they were in that position before us so we made a deal. We agreed to fight Dereck Chisora, they would give us some step aside money, Joshua would fight Pulev and we would get to fight Joshua next. Then, of course, AJ and Fury decided they wanted to fight and we were willing to allow a third fight for AJ but now, I believe it’s our turn.”
Throughout it all, Usyk has remained both patient and inactive. At one point, Krassyuk remembers a time where Usyk seemingly slept in the gym and fought stellar competition frequently. Now, through no fault of his own, the pound-for-pound star has spent more of his time sequestered on the sidelines due to various reasons. Since moving up to the heavyweight division in 2019, Usyk has only fought twice. Once, against the previously mentioned Chisora and just before that, against journeymen Chazz Witherspoon.
Normally following his ring appearances, Usyk’s skills are heavily praised. Yet, with two lackluster performances, many have given him an incredulous look as they have questioned whether or not he has the physicality and aggression to excel at the next level. Answering that question with an emphatic no, was former opponent, Dereck Chisora.
“He didn’t have any power,” said Chisora following his defeat to Usyk. “AJ would eat him up, Fury would eat him up. His style of boxing isn’t made for the heavyweights.”
A back and forth argument between Krassyuk and Chisora may entertain fans, but the long-time manager has no interest in doing so. All he asks is that Chisora and everyone else who doubts Usyk for that matter, simply take a look at his resume.
“Usyk is an elite fighter, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, former cruiserweight undisputed champion, he is elite.”
At the moment, the heavyweight division is mostly viewed as a three horse race. As Wilder, Joshua and Fury are all routinely mentioned near the top of the weight class, Krassyuk is firmly under the belief that Uysk will soon be given the opportunity to prove that he is a step above them all. While he remains confident that his long-time star will pick up the win no matter whom he faces, Krassyuk does acknowledge that although they are all tough fights, one of those three fighters could prove to be the toughest fight of Usyk’s career.
“I think he’s going to fight all of those guys but Fury would probably be the toughest fight.”
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