By: Sean Crose
Thirty two year old Ukrainian skill master Oleksandr Usyk finally made his heavyweight debut on Saturday night in Chicago when he faced Tyron Spong replacement Chazz Witherspoon (standout kickboxer Spong was kept from the fight at the eleventh hour thanks to a positive drug test). The Usyk-Witherspoon card went down at the Wintrust Arena and was aired live on the DAZN streaming service. Usyk had been out of the ring since 2018 thanks to an injury and the pitfalls that are a regular part of the boxing business. As he slipped between the ropes for his first heavyweight battle the former undisputed cruiserweight champion boasted a record of 16-0. The thirty eight year old Witherspoon, on the other hand, entered the ring with a record of 38-3.
Photo Credit Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
First, though, the 16-0 WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol defended his title against the 20-2-1 Lenin Castillo in a scheduled 12 rounder. Boasting an impressive record, Bivol was hoping to impress. The first round was rather close, with both men picking their shots. The second round was also close, though Bivol may have landed the sharper punches. Bivol began asserting himself and dominating the action in the third. He continued to assert himself in the fourth. By the fifth it was clear Castillo would have to do something notable if he hoped to change the course of things. Bivol dropped his man with a sharp right to the jaw in the sixth, though Castillo was able to get up without appearing to have suffered too much damage.
The seventh round played out like much of the fight had to up until that point, with Bivol simply proving himself the better man due to ring generalship and sharper punching. Castillo had a moment of aggression in the eighth, though it may not have been enough to win the man the round. Castillo had his moments again in the ninth, but Bivol was simply too skilled and effective to let the tide turn. Still, Castillo landed well in the tenth. Was it enough to win the round, though? Nothing occurred in the eleventh to change the course of things. The twelfth was much like many of the previous rounds. Bivol didn’t excite, but he earned a UD win from the judges.
It was time for the main event. The opening round of the scheduled twelve rounder was a slow affair. The second round wasn’t particularly fast paced, either, though Usyk was able to land effectively. Usyk came alive in the third, landing with sharp consistency. Usyk continued to come alive in the fourth, testing his power against a full fledged heavyweight. Witherspoon started taking a considerable beating in the fifth. Usyk was starting to truly overwhelm his man in the sixth, but seemed to intentionally take his foot off the gas at times. Usyk appeared to look for the stoppage in the seventh, but Witherspoon fired back gamely. Fortunately, Witherspoon’s corner stopped the fight in between rounds.