By: Oliver McManus
It’s not the heavyweight we necessarily needed for Oleksandr Usyk nor is it one from the triangle of talent seemingly at the head of the division: Fury, Joshua and Wilder. Yet Usyk’s confirmed bout with Dereck Chisora could be just the fight the heavyweight division needed to inject some sparks and joviality into a dwindling 2020.
Yesterday (September 23rd) Matchroom Boxing announced that the fight, expected in March and originally penciled in for May, would get the go ahead despite increased restrictions from the British government. Ambitions to have some capacity of a crowd in attendance were put on hold amid a rise in the number of coronavirus cases within the United Kingdom and there were initial concerns the fight might simply fade away.
Eddie Hearn has stuck to his guns, though, and confirmed the contest for October 31st at a venue to be decided and live on Sky Sports Box Office. A proliferation of pay-per-view bouts seems to be a side of the bargain that fans will be expected to stomach for the foreseeable future in return for these ‘high caliber contests’. Whilst the build-up to this fight will certainly be entertaining – it always is when Chisora is involved – question marks remain around the competitiveness of the actual bout.
Chisora has, against all odds and logic, maintained his status as a legitimate banana skin for heavyweights across the globe. Despite suffering nine losses in his career to date, there has been something of a resurgence since a lacklustre showing against Agit Kabayel in November 2017. That defeat to the German seemed to prompt a renewed urgency and Matchroom Boxing has been willing to cash his (no doubt pricey) cheques at frequent intervals for Chisora’s unique blend of salesman tactics and downright brutality in the ring.
To make the old expression more to Dereck Chisora’s liking: he hits like a donkey.
Likewise, there are some doubters surrounding Usyk’s legitimacy as a heavyweight contender though, for my money, he deserves the respect as a cleared-up cruiserweight champion. Of course in his heavyweight debut Chazz Witherspoon, there was a degree of working through the motions from Usyk which has been pounced upon by certain quarters of the boxing community as evidence he’s ‘not cut out’ for the bruising, bustling heavyweight division.
That more relaxed pace against Witherspoon was forgivable for two reasons: not least the fact it was his first fight in nearly a year having suffered a bicep injury. Almost definitely there would have been a desire to test out the resilience of that injury. Equally, it wasn’t too different an approach to the one we saw from Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) when he boxed Tony Bellew. That was very much the first four rounds of relaxation and allowing the fight to unfold before turning the screw and establishing his dominance when time and opportunity allowed. I don’t read too much into theories that he’s ‘off the pace’ because we’ve seen, first hand, his tactical awareness and ability to pace himself into a contest at the right time.
All the qualities and questions around Usyk and Chisora will no doubt be analysed to death before the pair meet, but the beauty of boxing is those questions will be answered, beyond doubt, on October 31st.