By: Hans Themistode
After carefully surveying the cruiserweight landscape, Oleksandr Usyk was proud of what he accomplished. From 2016-2019, Usyk successfully dethroned every cruiserweight world titlist. In the process, the Ukrainian star became an undisputed champion.
With little left to accomplish, Usyk opted to try his hand at the heavyweight division. While his first two results resulted in lackluster wins over the likes of Chazz Witherspoon and Dereck Chisora, Usyk had everything clicking in his most recent appearance against Anthony Joshua. Though he was pegged as a sizable underdog, Usyk made oddsmakers eat their words as he went on to dominate the hulking former titlist to begin his own championship reign.
In all likelihood, Usyk is heading towards an immediate rematch with Joshua during the first half of 2022. But while the pound-for-pound star is focused on proving that his win over Joshua was legitimate, he’s slowly but assuredly begun looking at his former weight class.
In recent months, Canelo Alvarez has expressed his desire to become a cruiserweight world champion. Officially, the newly crowned undisputed super middleweight titlist will face the winner of the upcoming contest between WBC cruiserweight belt holder Ilunga Makabu and Thabiso Mchunu.
Should Alvarez successfully nab another world title, Usyk revealed that he would be willing to return to a weight class that he once dominated.
“I can fight him at cruiserweight,” said Usyk to BoxingInsider.com.
While news of Usyk’s willingness to face Alvarez at the cruiserweight 200-pound weight limit sparked intrigue amongst fans, former four division champion Roy Jones Jr. believes a showdown between them would be an utter mismatch.
“To me, Usyk is too big for Canelo,” said Jones Jr. during an interview with IFL TV. “Usyk beats Canelo easy in my opinion.”
Although Jones Jr. suspects that Usyk would go on to dominate Alvarez due to their size difference, the newly inducted Hall of Famer believes Usyk’s success as a heavyweight would be untenable. To further back his claim that Usyk could be forfeiting future glory for immediate triumph, the former four-division champion points to recent history to further prove his point.
“Usyk has no reason to come down and fight Canelo,” continued Jones Jr. “Usyk is the heavyweight champion of the world. Why would you go to cruiserweight, when you’re the heavyweight champion of the world? Look what happened when Chad Dawson went down from light heavyweight to fight Andre Ward at 168. That was the end of his career. Why would you do that to yourself?”
Seemingly at the top of his game and after picking up notable wins against Antonio Tarver and Bernard Hopkins as a light heavyweight, Chad Dawson willingly dropped down to the super middleweight division in 2012 to take on unified champion Andre Ward. Despite being a consistent fixture on numerous pound-for-pound lists, Dawson was thoroughly dominated as he was dropped three times and later stopped in the 10th round.
Though Dawson would later return to the light heavyweight division, he was never quite the same. In his first appearance as a full-fledged light heavyweight since Ward, Dawson was brutally knocked out against Adonis Stevenson in the very first round. His career would continue to spiral downward as he registered losses to fringe contenders Tommy Karpency and Andrzej Fonfara.
In a similar move, Jones Jr. also drastically moved up and down in weight nearly two decades ago. In 2003, after stopping Clinton Woods in the sixth round to defend his light heavyweight titles, Jones Jr. opted to move up to the heavyweight division to take on WBA champion John Ruiz. Although Jones Jr. did his best to not overload his body with too much weight, coming into his heavyweight debut at 193 pounds, his durability seemingly suffered soon after.
Following his victory over Ruiz to capture a heavyweight world title, Jones Jr. stripped a considerable amount of muscle from his frame to return to the light heavyweight division. While he picked up a few wins here and there, Jones Jr. was no longer the pound-for-pound star most were accustomed to seeing. The former multiple division champion would go on to pick up eight of his nine career losses after making the move back down in weight, five of which came via stoppage.
In addition to Jones Jr. wanting Usyk to steer clear of a return to the cruiserweight division due to the weight discrepancy, as the Florida native sifts through the names available to the newly crowned heavyweight champion, he believes there’s a bevy of big fights available to him currently.
“You got Tyson Fury, you got Deontay Wilder, you got Anthony Joshua again, you got Andy Ruiz. You got so many big guys who are in the weight class that you are champion at right now that it makes no sense. Unless it’s way more money that you’re going to make which he’s not because you vs. Fury right now is probably one of the biggest fights on the planet. You vs. Joshua again is also a big fight.”
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