Clemente Russo didn’t appear to come into the ring with very much of a game plan, and as a result he will be taking home silver for the second straight Olympiad.
Russo, the heavyweight representative of Italy in these Games, could not figure out what to do with Oleksandr Usyk of the Ukraine, and he paid the price for it. Last time these two battled, there were not many points scored at all. This time there were a little more, and Usyk had most of them, winning a 14-11 verdict to add the ultimate in prestigious hardware to the gold he had already won at last year’s World Amateur Championships, where he was only seeded eighth. .
When these two met in the 2008 Olympics, it was in the second round of the tournament and Russo was the man who came away with a 7-4 victory. The Italian went onto win a silver medal.
It looked like it might go that way again after the first round, which Russo controlled in the judges’ minds, taking a 3-1 lead. It was then that the tall, angular Usyk started to find the range a little more, making things a lot more lively. He took Round 2 by a 7-5 margin, and then he was really off an running in the third round, which began with the fight all tied up.
As Usyk was taking advantage of his straight left hand, Russo was hardly throwing anything straight at all. In fact, that is not his style. He is rather undisciplined, coming in with big punches that are also wide, allowing opponents to come down the middle if they are accurate enough. Russo only paws with the jab, and is wild all too often, and even though his punches that come from odd angles can throw many opponents off-balance, his lack of fundamentals can leave an opportunity open for a foe who can keep his composure.
That’s what happened with Usyk, who did not stand there and pick him off but did make Russo look sloppy. He certainly caught the judges’ attention with his cleaner blows, and his 6-3 edge on the cards constituted the entire difference.
Usyk went into a rather awkward victory dance in the ring after the decision was announced, and if that is what was rehearsed, it needed to be choreographed better.
The question remains as to whether Russo could be a high-level pro. You have to remember that he moved up from the light heavyweight class, where he had competed in the 2004 Olympics and lost to current super middleweight champion Andre Ward. He stands only 5’11”, meaning that he will always be giving up weight to his opponents, and unlike Mike Tyson, he doesn’t appear to have bludgeoning knockout power. Even at cruiserweight, which is where he will inevitably be, he is likely to face disadvantages, and so he may have a difficult time getting to the top unless he has a lot of help from a promoter.