By: William Holmes
Oleksandr Usyk will return to the ring nearly a year after he was last seen competing. On Saturday night he will be facing last minute replacement Chazz Witherspoon at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. This will be Usyk’s long anticipated heavyweight debut.
Usyk was originally scheduled to face kickboxing legend Tyron Spong, but a positive test for Clomiphene has derailed that match. Instead, thirty eight year old veteran Chazz Witherspoon will be taking his spot.
Eddie Hearn stated at the final press conference, ““When you get a call like I did on Monday that Tyrone Spong had failed a drug test, you need to move quickly or there is a chance that there is no show at all. We want to say a special thank you to Chazz Witherspoon. He has been undefeated for nearly six years now and we have talked to him about a bunch of different fights of the years. He stepped up here to take a shot at Oleksandr Usyk and we are grateful.”
The co-main event of the evening will be between Dmitry Bivol and Lenin Castillo for Bivol’s WBA Light Heavyweight title.
Other fighters on the undercard include Anthony Sims Jr., Jessica McCaskill, Charles Conwell, Patrick Day, and TJ Doheny.
The following is a preview of the co-main event and main event of the evening.
Dmitry Bivol (16-0) vs. Lenin Castillo (20-2-1); WBA Light Heavyweight Title
Dmitry Bivol has been angling for a big fight, but appears to have trouble getting other light heavyweight champions into the ring with him.
He’s 28 years old, three years younger than his opponent, and still in the midst of his athletic prime. Castillo will have about a two inch height advantage on Bivol. Both boxers have moderate power. Castillo has stopped fifteen of his opponents while Bivol has stopped eleven.
Both boxers also have had successful amateur careers. Castillo competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics while Bivol was a Russian Amateur Champion.
Both boxers have been fairly active. They both fought three times in 2018 and once in 2019. However, Bivol has clearly faced the better opposition.
Bivol has defeated the likes of Joe Smith Jr., Jean Pascal, Isaac Chilemba, Sullivan Barrera, Trent Broadhurst, Cedric Agnew, and Samuel Clarkson. Bivol has won three decisions in a row and never tasted defeat as a professional.
Castillo has defeated the likes of Reinaldo Gonzalez, John Cortez, and Aaron Mitchell. His losses were to Marcus Browne and Joseph Williams.
This is a fight that Bivol should win rather decisively. An impressive stoppage may help raise his profile to help him reach his goal of unifying the light heavyweight titles.
Oleksandr Usyk (16-0) vs. Chazz Witherspoon (38-3); Heavyweight Division
The original planned fight between Usyk and Spong was intriguing in that it put together two combat sport athletes from different genres in a ring together. Usyk was still considered the favorite, but it would have been interesting.
Unfortunately for fight fans, Witherspoon does not appear to bring the same intrigue into this bout as Spong did.
Witherspoon is thirty eight years old, past his prime, and will only have a slight one inch height advantage despite this being Usyk’s first fight in the heavyweight division. Not only is Usyk six years younger than Witherspoon, but he also has the edge in amateur experience. Usyk was a gold medalist in the 2012 Summer Olympics while Witherspoon was a former Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion, but nearly fifteen years ago.
Both boxers have moderate power, with Witherspoon having twenty nine stoppages on his resume to Usyk’s twelve. However, Usyk has been more active despite this being his first fight in 2019. Usyk fought three times in 2018 and twice in 2017. Witherspoon fought once in 2019, once in 2018 and zero times in 2017.
Witherspoon has wins against Jonathan Haggler, Ty Cobb, and Santander Silgado but nobody really of note. He has losses to Seth Mitchell, Tony Thompson, and Chris Arreola.
Usyk has defeated the likes of Tony Bellew, Murat Gassiev, Mairis Briedis, Marco Huck, Michael Hunter, Thabiso Mchunu, Krzysztof Glowacki, Pedro Rodriguez, and Johnny Muller. He has no defeats as a profressional.
Unfortunately, this appears to be a fight that Usyk should win rather easily. They say every fighter has a puncher’s chance, and that might be the only chance that Witherspoon has on Saturday.