What’s Next For Oleksandr Usyk?
By: Hans Themistode
It was a pointless contest for Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) who made his Heavyweight debut against late replacement Chazz Witherspoon (38-4, 29 KOs) in Chicago at the Wintrust arena.
Witherspoon was never viewed as a true contender at any point in his career, nor was he viewed as a true challenge for the former undisputed Cruiserweight champion. Those sentiments came to fruition as Witherspoon was outclassed and ultimately stopped in the seventh round.
There is no denying the skill of Usyk but does he possess the size. The former Cruiserweight tipped the scale at 215 pounds, which is on the lighter side for a Heavyweight. His contest against Witherspoon did nothing for his stock in his new division. Simply put, he needs to face better opposition. If he elects too, he can simply wait for the winner of the December rematch between unified champion Andy Ruiz and former champion Anthony Joshua. Or, he could choose to continue to get his feet wet in his new division.
Let’s take a look at his options.
The former multiple time title challenger was originally slated to take on Usyk on May 25th. However, Usyk suffered a torn bicep which forced the bout to be canceled. Thoughts of scheduling a rematch between went by the wayside for various reasons.
Now that Usyk has made a successful debut in the Heavyweight division, this contest should be revisited. Takam may have came up short in his endeavors to become a world champion, but he has always given a good account of himself. A win for either man would put the rest of the division on notice.
A matchup between Alexander Povetkin (35-2, 24 KOs) and Usyk would pit two gold medal winning fighters against one another. Since losing a one sided decision at the hands of former champion Wladimir Klitschko back in 2013, Povetkin reeled off eight straight victories before he was ultimately stopped in his second bid to become a world champion, this time at the hands of former belt holder Anthony Joshua.
Even at the age of 40, Povetkin proved that he has plenty left in the tank as he defeated Hughie Fury earlier this year. Rumors circulated of these two stepping into the ring against one another in the past. The fans should hope that this fight becomes a reality sooner rather than later.
Joseph Parker (26-2, 20 KOs) is currently out of the loop in terms of a big fight. He was originally scheduled to take on Dereck Chisora later this month but was forced to withdraw due to an illness. Since back to back losses to Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, Parker has gone on to stop his last two opponents. The former WBO belt holder is itching to get back into title contention. A win over the highly touted Usyk could provide him with a pathway to championship glory.
A contest against Parker seems like a tough ask of Usyk who only has one match under his belt in the Heavyweight division, however, if he wants to truly make a splash, then this is the fight to make.
Usyk Debuts At Heavyweight With Stoppage Win
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.
Usyk vs. Witherspoon, Bivol vs. Castillo Fight Previews
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.
Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA
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.
Usyk To Make Heavyweight Debut Against Spong October 12th
By: Sean Crose
Oleksander Usyk, known as the undisputed, unquestioned king of the cruiserweight division, is now making his way to heavyweight. Long expected, the 16-0 Usyk’s first match in boxing’s big weight class will be against a fellow undefeated fighter, the 14-0 Tyrone Spong, in Chicago’s Wintrust Arena on October 12th. The scheduled 12 rounder will be aired live on the DAZN streaming service, and will be promoted by Matchroom Boxing, which Usyk has teamed with. Usyk’s first divisional opponent may not be a top name, but Spong is a legitimate contender nonetheless, currently ranked fourth in the WBOs official list of top heavyweights.
“I am very excited to make my heavyweight debut in Chicago on October 12, live on DAZN,” says Usyk. “Spong is a fast and powerful heavyweight who has had much success in the ring. I must come through this test to challenge for the world heavyweight title. I look forward to seeing everyone there.” The heavyweight division is a very interesting place at the moment, with names like Ruiz, Joshua, Fury, and Wilder populating the scene. Usyk is eager to have his name enter the conversation.
“Usyk’s heavyweight debut is one of the most hotly anticipated boxing moments of 2019,” says promoter Eddie Hearn, “and personally, I can’t wait to see it.” In just over fifteen fights, the Ukrainian is already considered by some to be one of the best boxers on the planet. “Oleksandr is a phenomenon who dominated the cruiserweight division becoming undisputed after just 15 fights,” says Hearn, who would like nothing more than to see his fighter do the same at heavyweight. First, though, there’s the matter of Spong, who Matchroom describes in a press release as “having joined the sweet science after leaving a stellar kickboxing career behind, winning 91 of his 100 bouts in a 13-year career littered with accolades and titles.”
“After achieving most of my goals as a kick boxer and becoming one of the most decorated champions in the history of the sport,” says Spong, “I wanted to test myself in the difficult and challenging sport of boxing.” Spong, who fights out of Florida, makes it clear he doesn’t see himself as anyone’s stepping stone. “I have worked tirelessly during the last three years,” he says, “and now have the opportunity to prove my worth as a boxer against perhaps the best pound for pound, and most technically sound boxer in the world. Some may think the challenge may be too difficult, but I believe in myself, and look forward to being victorious on October 12.”
The challenge may not be too difficult for Spong, but there’s little doubt that Usyk’s resume is impressive. Tony Bellew, Murat Gassiev, Mairis Briedis, and Marco Huck, high level competition all, have all fallen victim to Usyk during the course of the man’s last four fights. As a winner of both the World Boxing Super Series and an Olympic Gold Medal, the fighter now has one of the best pedigrees in boxing as he moves up to heavyweight.
Who Will Step Up and Face Oleksandr Usyk?
By: Hans Themistode
Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) is looking to make a big splash in the Heavyweight division.
After mowing down the competition at Cruiserweight, Oleksandr Usyk is ready to move on. While Usyk campaigned in the division he fought all of the top names.
Undefeated up and coming WBO champion Krzysztof Glowacki was outclassed. One of the longest reigning champions in Marco Huck was easily dispatched by stoppage in the tenth round. Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev had their once spotless records stained once they entered the ring against Usyk as well.
All four major titles in the division were wrapped around his waist at this point. He ended his career at Cruiserweight with a eighth round knockout win over Tony Bellew.
There was effectively nothing and no one left for Usyk to face so the move to Heavyweight was a well warranted one. Originally, he was scheduled to make his debut at his new weight class on May 25th against Carlos Takam. A bicep injury however, during his training camp forced him to the sidelines.
Now that he is fully healed, he is penciled in for a return in October. Unfortunately for Usyk, he has been unable to secure an opponent as of now.
So who exactly should welcome Usyk into the world of giants?
The Heavyweight division isn’t short on big name fighters, but many of them are occupied at the moment. The biggest names in the division including WBC belt holder Deontay Wilder, Lineal Champ Tyson Fury, unified champion Andy Ruiz and former unified champion Anthony Joshua are all currently booked in high profile fights.
The contenders, including Luis Ortiz, Alexander Povetkin and Hughie Fury are all busy as well.
So where exactly does that leave Usyk? Unfortunately for the former undisputed Cruiserweight champ, it leaves him in limbo.
Usyk has never been known for taking a soft touch. With such few options at the moment there is one name in the division that would make perfect sense for him. Kubrat Pulev.
Since getting stopped by Wladimir Klitschko in 2014 in his first attempt at a world title, Pulev has gone on to win seven straight fights. He is currently the IBF number one contender as well.
A fight between the two makes perfect sense. Not only would Pulev provide Usyk with a significant challenge, but it would also pave the way for the victor to take on the winner in the rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz.
Usyk could of course opt for a soft touch but that has never been his style. Whomever he decides to take on in his Heavyweight debut will allow him the opportunity to announce his presence to the rest of the division.
Oleksandr Usyk Ready To Reign Supreme
By: Hand Themistode
Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) has yet to make his debut at Heavyweight, yet he has his eyes set on the Heavyweight throne.
For this that are not familiar with Usyk, the best way to describe him is a much bigger version of Vasyl Lomachenko. The loud thudding noise must be from your jaw that has currently hit the ground after that description. Lomachenko is wildly regarded as the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Usyk is that good.
This comes as no surprise, seeing how Lomachenko’s father/trainer also trains Usyk as well.
The Ukrainian born fighter plowed through the Cruiserweight division. In a short span at the weight, he defeated everyone of note and captured every world title. A move to Heavyweight was warranted as he effectively cleaned out the entire division.
Usyk’s Heavyweight debut was booked against longtime contender Carlos Takam in May. It was a decent first step for Usyk and his new venture into an unknown division. The prevailing thought was that Usyk would get his feet wet in a contest against Takam and assuming he won that bout, he would move on to take on the likes of Alexander Povetkin. If Usyk managed to pull off that victory as well, then a matchup with former unified Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua would take place sometime in 2020.
Like often is the case in boxing, things never go quite as planned. Usyk was sidelined with a bicep injury while Joshua lost in a mega upset against Andy Ruiz. The former Cruiserweight star views this as an opening.
Usyk and his legal team wasted no time. Shortly after Ruiz’s major upset, Usyk requested to become the mandatory challenger from the WBO. They obliged.
Tune ups and warm up contest be damned. Like many fans and experts alike, Usyk sees this as a golden opportunity to win more gold. The Heavyweight division seems to be in disarray and Usyk wants to take full advantage.
It is difficult to find Usyk’s place amongst the current crop of Heavyweight fighters. Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury are rated as the best two fighters in the division. Andy Ruiz has made his mark as a true champion and although Anthony Joshua was defeated in his last outing, counting him out would be foolish.
Currently, Usyk should be rated behind all of these men, but it won’t be for long. This level of skill from a big man a rarity. It seems only a matter of time before Usyk proves that he not only belongs but that he is the best Heavyweight in the world.
Usyk Relinquished WBO Belt
By: Shane Willoughby
The former undisputed Cruiserweight Champion of the world Oleksandr Usyk Has finally relinquished his WBO title as he looks to continue his career at Heavyweight.
The WBO title was actually the first belt the Ukranian won at the division against Krzysztof Glowacki in 2016, before he went on to complete the monopoly.
Oleksandr Usyk was set to make his heavyweight debut on the 25th May against Carlos Takam but injured his bicep in training. With Usyk unable to fight and his move to heavyweight inevitable, his belts had to be freed eventually.
The 2012 gold medallist relinquished his WBA title earlier this year and last week became the WBC emeritus champion, allowing the WBC title to become vacant. So him relinquishing the WBO belt came as no surprise.
Whilst Usyk return to the ring hasn’t yet been announced, it is certainly going to be at heavyweight. Which is interesting as it’s possible he can end up fighting for the same title he relinquished, just at heavyweight.
As a former WBO champion he moves up to heavyweight with the option to become mandatory. It is extremely likely that the WBO mandatory will be called this year.
However, with Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz scheduled for a rematch, the WBO could strip the title from Ruiz, similar to what the IBF did with Tyson Fury. Which means Usyk could fight for a vacant belt this year.
Either way, Oleksandr Usyk has many options moving forward and the winner of the 1st World Boxing Super Series at Cruserweight has expressed his hope for one at heavyweight.
What has already been a successful career, in only 15 fights becoming the first champion to hold all four belts at Cruiserweight. There is not much Usyk needs to do to cement his name in the hall of fame.
Oleksandr Usyk vs Carlos Takam: Can Usyk Make it as a Heavyweight?
By: Waqas Ali
Former unified world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk will be making his first debut as a heavyweight against Carlos Takam on May 25th at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, USA.
The bout will be aired live on the DAZN streaming service.
The 32-year-old Ukrainian fighter achieved stardom in the cruiserweight division – holding the WBO, WBA, WBC, IBF and the Ring Magazine titles simultaneously.
Without a doubt, Usyk is one of the best talents in boxing today and brings a variety of skills, styles and techniques that really cluster the meat of his talent.
He is praised by boxing writers, historians and hardcore boxing fans.
He currently boasts a record of 16 wins with 12 KOs.
His last fight was against Briton Tony Bellew in November 2018 whom he knocked out in round eight in front 20,000 fans at the Manchester arena.
Usyk does not deny the challenge and wants to aim high in order to achieve greatness in the heavyweight division.
“It’s a tough first fight,” said Usyk.
“But I need to test myself against world-class opposition on my new road to undisputed.”
His opponent Takam (36-5-1) has competitive opponents in the past such as Tony Thompson, Joseph Parker, Dereck Chisora and hard-hitting, Anthony Joshua.
Takam took Joshua to ten rounds with good shots thrown at him but lost in the end.
However, in regards to Usyk facing him in May, Takam feels highly motivated for the opportunity.
“I can promise that this will be a great fight and I will provide Usyk with a huge test on his heavyweight debut,” he said.
“I have huge ambitions of my own in the division and this fight will provide me with the chance to prove that.”
But can Usyk, a former Olympic champion and former undisputed champion succeed in a division that is known more for power and will than skill and mindset?
One must keep in mind that Usyk had actually fought in the heavyweight division previously as an amateur.
In 2013, Usyk defeated future Olympic Silver medallist Joe Joyce in a five-round battle without the use of handguards at the World Series of Boxing event.
He used his straight left hand to win points and provided exchanges too. As a cruiserweight, Usyk is known for his high activity level and astonishing footwork.
There was little activity rate in the bout with Joyce and more pot-shots were executed.
Many question if Usyk’s footwork will drastically change in 200 plus division and will the speed remain against the bigger fighters.
Fighters such as Evander Holyfield and David Haye both unified the cruiserweight division. Haye won the WBA heavyweight title and defended it twice. Holyfield went on to also unify the heavyweight division.
Roy Jones Jr, one of boxing’s greatest fighters of all time went from winning titles at middleweight, light heavyweight and at heavyweight.
He became the first fighter in 106 years to go from winning a title at middleweight all to the way to heavyweight.
By the numbers, Usyk throws an astounding 41 jabs per round which is double what the average heavyweight (20) throws.
Usyk has landed 19% of his total punches to the body.
In the power punching department, Usyk throws around 28 punches and connects at a rate of 42%. While the average heavyweight throws around 24 and connects at 40%.
Usyk opponents landed 29% of their power punches which is well below the cruiserweight avg (37%).
Takam relies on the power punch. 10 of his 13 landed punches are power shots. His opponents have landed 38% of their power shots.
The numbers indicate that Usyk does lead slightly ahead than what the average heavyweight throws and lands. However, this will all depend on next how well he does against the heavyweights. The activity level could in question. Sometimes when it comes moving up in weight, the activity level can go down. Fighters like Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury weigh a median of 17st 2lbs and a median height of 6 foot 7 whilst Usyk only comes in around 14 stone at 6 foot 3 inches. Even if Usyk comes in a stone up it will be a challenging and a hazardous process to take. Nobody can deny the talent that Usyk brings to the table and no doubt he has made the decision in fighting Takam in order to get a taste of the heavyweight division once again but on a professional level.
Usyk Set to Make Heavyweight Debut Against Takam
By: Sean Crose
“May 25 marks a major moment in my career when I move to the Heavyweight division,” says the16-0 Oleksandr Usyk. “At Cruiserweight I did it all and became the undisputed champion and that is my goal now in the Heavyweights.” The 32 year old Ukrainian fighter is one of the most highly regarded practitioners in the fight game, courtesy of the fact that Usyk took complete ownership of the Cruiserweight division after besting Murat Gassiev last summer in the final bout of the World Boxing Super Series. Since that time, Usyk has been expected to move up to the heavyweight, having no more worlds left to conquer in the division he dominated.
Usyk’s opening bout in the big guy’s division will go down on May 25th at Maryland’s MGM National Harbor and will be aired live on the DAZN streaming service. The 36-5-1 Carlos Takam will be Usyk’s first heavyweight opponent. Having given heavyweight kingpin Anthony Joshua an impressive battle in 2016, Takam (who ended up losing to Joshua in the 10th round) is no one’s tune up fight.
“Usyk has achieved everything in the Cruiserweight division,” Takam says. “I am ready to welcome him to the new world of Heavyweight boxing,” said Takam. “I can promise that this will be a great fight and I will provide Usyk with a huge test on his Heavyweight debut. I have huge ambitions of my own in the division and this fight will provide me with the chance to prove that.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing appears happy with matchup. “Takam is the perfect test for the Heavyweight debut (of Usyk),” he says. “A big strong, all action fighter who will welcome Usyk into the fold with a heavy arsenal.” Yet Usyk is clearly looking beyond his respected foe.
“This is the ultimate challenge,” he says, “and it begins on May 25 against Carlos Takam. It’s a tough first fight but I need to test myself against world class opposition on my new road to undisputed.” The Heavyweight division that Usyk now aims to make his own is dominated by a series of colorful, high level fighters. Aside from Joshua, WBC champ Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury (who many consider to the be the lineal champ) tower above the division’s landscape. At 6-3, Usyk is somewhat small compared to his new peers. His skill set, however, speaks for itself.
Oleksandr Usyk to Face Luiz Ortiz or Alexander Povetkin?
By: Waqas Ali
Oleksandr Usyk could be on the verge of stepping into the heavyweight division and facing either Cuban beast Luiz Ortiz or Russian Alexander Povetkin.
Usyk boasts a record of 16 victories and is the undisputed cruiserweight champion – holding the WBO, WBA, WBC, IBF and the Ring Magazine titles simultaneously.
Without a doubt Usyk is one of the best talent in boxing today and brings a variety of skills, styles and techniques that really cluster the meat of his talent.
According to Michael Benson via Fight News, Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk stated that there is a “70% chance” of making a matchup against Povetkin or Ortiz.
Krassyuk also said that fighters such as Jarrell Miller and Joseph Parker turned down the option of fighting Usyk.
However, according to Parkers’ promoter David Higgns, he denied any rejection of Usyk and that they did not receive any communication from the Usyk camp.
Interesting to note the fact that when Dillian Whyte was asked about future opponents he would like to face, he did not mention Usyk.
“There’s five possible fighters [Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, Jarrell Miller, Dominic Breazeale and Deontay Wilder] out there for me,” Whyte said to IFL TV.
When asked about Usyk specifically, he dismissed him as a potential opponent.
“He’s a good fighter, but no one knows who he is,” Whyte said.
“He speaks no English. What I’m saying is he’s not really a big fight for me. The hardcore boxing fans will watch it [Whyte vs. Usyk], but imagine trying to sell Usyk-Dillian Whyte to the general public.”
One theory of this dismissal could be the fact that Whyte (25W, 18KOs -1L) is looking for the rematch against Anthony Joshua who is the unified heavyweight champion.
But in particular Ortiz and Povetkin are the main head-to-heads for Usyk, should his camp announce his debut at heavyweight and pick one of them.
But what does each fighter bring to the table?
Povetkin, 39, has a record of 34 wins (24 KOs) and two losses. In his last ten bouts, he won eight and six of them were by stoppages. His height is at 6 foot 2 inches and a reach of 75 inches.
Though Usyk would gain advantage since his height is 6 foot 3 with a 78 inch reach.
Povetkin is a conventional fighter and does have effective that could the smaller Usyk problems. Both are Olympic Gold medal winners from their countries of Russia and Ukraine. It would sell well in either countries or even in the United States.
Ortiz, 39, also boasts a record of 30 wins, 26 by KO, one loss and two no contests. His knockout ratio stands at 79%.
In his last ten bouts, he’s won nine, eight by KO and only one decision. His reach is similar to Usyks of 78”. This would mean that the range and distance could be of an interesting contest.
He has exceptional punching power and the ratio figure speaks for itself. Lacks the footwork but can break the range every now and when it comes throwing the overhand right hes follows it up with the right.
The Cuban is also a southpaw and majority of Usyks opponents are orthodox. This would put Ortiz in the lead due to the fact that Usyk has not fought any competitive southpaws.
According to a poll conducted by @boxingroyalty1, out of over 1600 plus voters 50% picked Povetkin to fight Usyk and 38% chose Ortiz.
— Boxing Royalty (@boxingroyalty1) January 6, 2019
One thing about Usyk is his punches are sweet but sour to taste.
Based on the styles and variations of each fighter I would say that on a selling point it would be with Povetkin because a Russian and a Ukrainian could gather a mega crowd in their home lands. They would make more money than opposed to having Ortiz travelling to foreign lands to sell. It’s an unfortunate reality but I suspect that even Ortiz will acknowledge this. Boxing today is more to do with stage than skills. Like quality over quantity.
From a stylistic point of view, I believe Ortiz is the stronger and powerful one of the two. Just as I mentioned in the analysis, his knockout ration is high and he has more weapons to fire than Povetkin has. For someone who comes in at 240 plus on fight night could be a problem for Usyk. We saw what happened in the Bellew fight. He was countered multiple times. The comprehension of taking those punches at heavyweight against someone like Ortiz would be devastating.
With regards to Whyte turning down Usyk, as I mentioned in the analysis, Whyte in his mind shouldn’t fight Usyk because he realises that he has more chance of losing to him and therefore it will cost him his chance of rematching with Joshua again. Of course from a hardcore boxing fans’ point view it is preposterous to even deny him a fight. The fact that Usyk can’t speak English is irrelevant. Saul Alvarez can’t speak English yet he’s the most paid boxer and the biggest name in boxing today. Whyte said that the bout wouldn’t sell. No doubt it probably make as much money as it would a second fight with AJ but at least fight could elevate Whyte back in the main elites. Usyk fought Bellew at the Manchester Arena. A venue with a capacity of over 20,000 and the viewership for that was over 600,000. Whatever the case maybe, I recognise the reasoning’s for Whyte’s reasoning on declining Usyk.
2018 Fighter of the Year: Oleksandr Usyk
By: Jake Donovan
For the past 30 years, there has been no debate that Evander Holyfield is the greatest cruiserweight of all time.
That was until Oleksandr Usyk wrapped up his 2018 in-ring campaign.
The 31-year old southpaw from Ukraine hasn’t enjoyed the benefit of fighting at home since his final fight as a contender in Dec. ‘15. Each of his last eight starts have taken place on the road, all but one being staged in the home country of his opponent beginning with his title-lifting effort over then-unbeaten champ Krzysztof Glowacki in Sept. ’16 in Poland.
Fighting on the road is hardly a new experience for the gifted cruiserweight, who spent a healthy portion of his 350-fight amateur career away from his native Ukraine. Included among the lot were two Olympic tours, advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and capturing a Gold medal during the 2012 London festivities.
It’s only fitting that every championship he’s won as a pro has come against the backdrop of a partisan crowd.
In 2018, Usyk (16-0, 12KOs) entered the lion’s den three times—twice in unification bouts and wrapping up the year with a defense versus a former champ, all taking place in sold-out arenas in packed with his opponent’s fans rooting hard for a hometown win.
His journey began with a trip to Riga, Latvia last January to face then-unbeaten titlist and local hero Mairis Briedis. It was already his third time facing an undefeated opponent in their home country, as he was the first to beat Glowacki (in Poland) and American contender Michael Hunter in the United States.
In Briedis, Usyk would receive his stiffest test as a pro, certainly a far more difficult challenge than having stopped former titlist Marco Huck in Germany the prior September in the opening round of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament.
The first five rounds were anything but a clear-cut indicator that Usyk would even win, much less go on to enjoy a Fighter of the Year-worthy campaign. He first had to adapt to the brisk pace forced by the house favorite, then contend with a clash of heads in the 5th round which left him briefly wobbled and with reddening around his left eye.
It ultimately served as a wake-up call.
Usyk took over the fight once the second half began, his second-to-none conditioning carrying him to victory. Save for a minor scare in round nine and a final round last-ditch rally by Briedis, the second half surge was enough for the visiting Ukrainian to advance to the WBSS finals.
That led to his twice traveling to Russia: first to take in the other semifinals bout between Murat Gassiev and Yunier Dorticos one week later; then in July, for his finals meet with Gassiev in a bout that would leave the winner as the first truly undisputed cruiserweight champion in the four-belt era.
As it turned out, the hardest part in making history was getting to fight night. The unification clash itself was delayed by more than two months due to Usyk requiring elbow surgery, thus killing plans for a May clash in Saudi Arabia. The postponement worked out in Gassiev’s favor, in that the fight was relocated to his native Russia.
Home country advantage was the only edge he’d enjoy that night.
Usyk quickly took the crowd out of the equation, somehow reducing an undisputed cruiserweight championship contest into a one-sided sparring session in pitching a virtual shutout. Even before the final decision was announced, the immediate question was what the newly crowned World cruiserweight king would do for an encore.
The answer? A third road trip on the year, of course.
For months, the idea was floated of Tony Bellew challenging the WBSS winner—particularly if it was Usyk, who even entered a co-promotional pact with the Brit’s promoter Eddie Hearn. The union led to the finalization of plans for a November 11 clash in what would be a sold-out Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Even if Usyk opted to sit out the rest of 2018 following his win over Gassiev, he’d still serve as a leading Fighter of the Year contender. For much of the first half of his clash with Bellew, the risk of a third fight in an optional defense seemed to outweigh the reward.
That was, until the defending champ was ready to take over.
Once again displaying his superior ring smarts and conditioning, Usyk overcame a rocky start—and surprising scorecard deficit—to emphatically knock out Bellew in round eight. A textbook left hand landed flush, putting the former cruiserweight titlist down and out, a knockout loser in what would be the final fight of his celebrated career.
As for Usyk, it was merely the final moment of an unrivaled 2018 in-ring campaign. He entered the year at least a distant second in discussions of the best active cruiserweight of all time (Holyfield) and the best active boxer from Ukraine (Vasiliy Lomachenko).
Answers that were once foregone conclusions now warrant considerable discussion. Everything about the year that was for Usyk changed that mindset—while fittingly also ending any debate as to whether anyone else deserved the honor of being named the BoxingInsider.com 2018 Fighter of the Year.
Somebody’s 0 Has Got to Go: The Top Three Fights Fans Want to See
By: Oliver McManus
“Somebody’s 0 has got to go”, it’s possibly the most used phrase in modern boxing. Mind you, if David Diamante has his way it will soon become “let’s nix a nil” but the premise remains the same, two unbeaten fighters putting their records on the line in, hopefully, guts-and-glory encounters.
Don’t get me wrong, a loss doesn’t make you a bad fighter and beating an unbeaten man doesn’t, equally, make you a star player in the sport. As we’ve seen recently there have been a fair few damp squibs when it comes to unbeaten vs unbeaten – Andrade vs Kautondokwa, anyone?
Nonetheless there are plenty of mouth-watering fights in prospect and these are three fights I want to see, at world level, where someone’s 0 has got to go…
Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk – Heavyweight
Where better place to kick off than in the heavyweight division? Anthony Joshua has had things pretty much his own way at the top of the game since winning his first world title – sanctioned by the IBF- in 2016. Since that capitulation of Charles Martin, Joshua has fought in six world title bouts and added the WBA, WBO and IBO straps to his collection.
With a touted fight against Deontay Wilder falling by the wayside – take whoever’s side you want on that thorny issue – Joshua is next out on April 13th, at Wembley, with an opponent yet to be scheduled in.
But I’ll be honest, the tag of undisputed aside, I’d much rather see AJ in with the man who holds all of the cruiserweight belts and, arguably, one of the best in the world pound for pound. Usyk seems to me, and many others, the toughest challenge that Joshua can face.
Technically he is sublime and he possesses the heavyweight power required to take Joshua into deep water but, let’s not forget, Usyk has amateur pedigree in the heavier division so it’s not like he’s inexperienced at the weight. Even having said that experience wouldn’t be an issue for someone of such natural quality as Usyk for his fight IQ and ring-ability transcends weight classes.
Coming off the back of a breezy fight against Tony Bellew in which, if we’re honest, he never looked out of control the natural step is for Usyk to go up to heavyweight. Joshua, we know, is searching for “legacy defining” fights and a bout against Oleksandr Usyk is about as big as they come.
The fight seems the most realistic, out of all the big heavyweight contests, with Eddie Hearn taking an active involvement in the promotion of the Ukrainian powerhouse so, fingers crossed, we could see a blockbuster event next year.
Winner of Errol Spence Jnr and Mikey Garcia vs Terence Crawford – Welterweight
Announced last week is the fight that, if we’re honest, made no real sense. Mikey Garcia was the man we all wanted to see fight Vasyl Lomachenko and Errol Spence was the champion looking to unify with Terrence Crawford.
The IBF Welterweight title will be on line come March 16th with Garcia looking to become a five weight champion in his 40th fight. A frighteningly skilled boxer, the California native has continually proved his credentials with a frightening knockout power.
In his last three fights Garcia has been extended the distance but has boxed with class throughout the 36 rounds, controlling the pace of the fight and manouvering his way out of danger with a comprehensive ease.
Errol Spence Jnr goes into the bout with an obvious weight advantage – fighting 12lbs heavier than the division in which Garcia actively holds a world title. 2 years the younger man, Spence burst onto the scene in 2016 with knockout victories over Chris Algieri and Leonard Bundu.
Having captured the IBF crown with a ferocious victory against Kell Brook, in Sheffield, the Texas-man has defended the belt twice in equally terrifying fashion. A non-stop work rate with continual punch output, if you let the champion unfurl his hands then you’re going to be in trouble.
And whilst the question of weight will loom over the bout until fight night, Garcia is a consummate professional and an outstanding athlete. For a man trying to prove his ability in the welterweight division, there could be no better way to silence the critics than claiming a world title in your first fight so that’s where Terence Crawford comes into play.
Errol Spence is the man that people wanted to see in a unification class with Bud, they would produce a scintillating fight. If Mikey Garcia is able to overcome such a challenge then he will have instantaneously justified getting a fight with the WBO champion.
All roads lead to unification, or so they… bring it on!
Artur Beterbiev vs Dmitry Bivol – Light Heavyweight
We’ll deal with the younger boxer first in Dmitry Bivol who ticked over towards the back of 2014 with a Bronze Medal at the 2008 Youth World Championships and a Gold Medal at the 2013 World Combat Games. A two time Russian national champion with a record of 268-15, his amateur pedigree was impressive but paled in comparison to his counterpart.
As a professional, though, the 27 year old really turned up the heat by claiming the first, major, belt of his career in just his fifth fight. The knockout power we all enjoy was evident from the first second of his debut but, with that, he’d find opponents looking to hold and just survive through the early phases. Not that that mattered, Bivol has always found ways of punishing his opponent.
Even when he has been stretched the distance – three times in 14 fights – the Kyrgyzstan-born man has always looked in complete control with an array of power punches as well as technical skill. Of course we’ll all remember his fierce one-punch knockout over, admittedly over-matched, Trent Broadhurst that saw Bivol claimed champion.
Successful defences against Sullivan Barrera and Isaac Chilemba have followed – he next fights Jean Pascal on the 24th – but surely the Russian will be eying up the options for unification come the turn of the year.
Beterbiev, on the other hand, turned pro in the middle of 2013 and initially built up a strong following in Canada – the elite amateur (World Champion & runner up, two-time European champion) had moved to Montreal in order to purse his professional ambitions.
At 5 and 0 he stepped up to face Tavoris Cloud – a former IBF champion – and dealt with the threat of the American, coming off a world title loss, in convincing fashion. The momentum from this bout seemed to follow as Beterbiev looked to fight better opponents at every opportunity possible.
A refreshing attitude of “fight who’s in front of me and knock them out” has ensured success with all thirteen of his wins coming via an early stoppage. A grizzly fighter, that’s the best way to describe it, Beterbiev never looks the fastest of opponents but, boy, does he have vicious punch power.
Typically standing with his hands at shoulder level, the 33 year old stands ready to pounce and is mature enough not to go out all-guns-blazing. The IBF champion won his title against Enrico Koelling last November and, in a fight that ended in the 12th, boxed patiently and calmly to do so.
Two unbeaten Russian powerhouses, slugging it out to unify light heavyweight world titles… what more could you ask for?
DAZN Boxing Preview: Usyk vs. Bellew, Crolla vs. Yordan
By: Oliver McManus
This Saturday witnesses a monumental moment in boxing as the Manchester Arena plays fiddle to Oleksandr Usyk’s “all-the-belt’s” defence against Tony Bellew who seeks to do the unthinkable and claim one of the biggest upsets in memory. Join DAZN free for 30 days and live-stream fight night anywhere!
Bellew, who has repeatedly upset the odds, will look to produce the performance of a life-time against the undefeated, undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world but does so in front of 20,000 partisan fans.
Photo Credit: DAZN USA Twitter Account
Having recently defeated David Haye across two ill-tempered bouts there was speculation that Bellew was set for a three fight cash-out at heavyweight but the chance of history came a calling.
Make no mistake, the odds are stacked against Bellew and few outside of the inner circle believe there is a realistic chance of an upset. For Bellew to come triumphant he will need to impose a disruptive game-plan that nips Usyk’s technical superiority in the bud before the Ukrainian can really get into the swing of things.
For want of a better word Bellew will need to bully the undisputed champion, stand square in the centre of the ring and just throw everything and the kitchen sink – what’s he got to lose? Precisely nothing, there is nothing to lose for the home fighter, no-one expects him to win.
Let’s turn attention to the main man, then – an amateur who claimed glory at every turn and has looked flawless since turning professional. People will say that Bellew’s best chance is to land a flush punch but Usyk has taken shots from Murat Gassiev and Mairis Briedis as though they were tickling him.
Technically outstanding, Usyk is one of the most well-rounded boxers who, whilst capable of brawling and throwing fire, can make even the closest challengers look average. Gassiev, for many, was the toughest test for Usyk and he absolutely walked through the Russian contender.
The agility of, countryman, Vasyl Lomachenko and the power of, say, Anthony Joshua, Usyk is sublime in everything he does. Harsh as it sounds, heart won’t win you fights against boxers of such calibre, it takes a different level to be able to mix it with Oleksandr Usyk.
The fairytale ending would have Bellew winning – the real life Rocky story – but Usyk has seen and conquered every challenge that has preceded Bellew. Logic suggests he takes this in his stride and his continues on his quest as one of the greatest, purest, fighters of all time.
Anthony Crolla fights in the co-main event with the Manchester-man looking to become mandatory challenger to, WBA champion, Vasyl Lomachenko. Standing in the way of that status stands Daud Yordan – a 31 year old who formerly challenged for the featherweight world title.
Crolla, himself a former WBA belt-holder, has bounced back from his two losses to Jorge Linares with a bruising win against Ricky Burns last October and a comfortable 10 round points win over Edson Ramirez in March of this year. Against Yordan, Crolla steps into the mild unknown with the Indonesian not being the most “known” opponent.
A man with 26 KOs from 38 victories and losses coming only to world champions or challengers – Celestino Caballero, Chris John and Simpiwe Vetyeka – the 31 year old is a classy operator with a vicious punch. Yordan has a tendency to open up as the rounds progress allowing himself the opportunity to launch sterling counter attacks but, in doing so, finds himself susceptible to walking onto a punch.
Eight wins on the trot since moving up to lightweight, skipping super-feather completely, the heavy weight division has seen Yordan gain considerable success and, despite his aging years, he’s looked serene and youthful in the ring, as of late.
Million Dollar is at a point in his career where he wants to be taking big fights only and Yordan is a sensible stepping stone in that direction. Across his career we’ve seen Crolla’s class with endless heart being shown in the 12 years since he turned pro.
Typically targeting the body of his opponents, you only have to look at his knockouts against Darleys Perez and Ismael Barroso for picture-perfect displays of the constant threat he poses. In a ram-packed 135lb division that bustles with domestic talent Crolla will be looking to prove he’s still a step better than the young crop with a peerless display on Saturday.
The winner becomes mandatory challenger to Vasyl Lomachenko in what would be a legacy-defining bout but, before all that can even be dreamt about, someone needs to rise to the occasion and seize their opportunity – Crolla will be favourite but Yordan’s not going to make it easy.
Saturday night witnesses one of the biggest fights in British boxing history – whether you like that or not – with “that fat scouser” putting it all on the line for one shot at ultimate glory. We’re going to see plenty of grit from the Brit as he seeks to produce a seismic shock but with Bellew you simply never know what’s going to happen.
Get some popcorn at the ready because it’s going to be a blockbuster!
Bellew to Face Usyk in Cruiserweight Showdown
By: Michael Kane
The big fights keep on coming for UK boxing fans.
Tony Bellew has moved back down to cruiserweight and will face undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, all of Usyk’s belts will be up for grab, the WBO, WBC, IBF as well as the Ring magazine belt.
The fight is to take place at Manchester Arena on November 10th.
Bellew, who was the WBC cruiserweight champion, is looking to end his career off in some style, with reports this is to be his last fight. The 35 year old moved up to heavyweight to face David Haye twice and stopped Haye for the second time in March this year.
Bellew told BBC Radio 5 Live, “He’ll see someone that will never give in, ever. He is one of the most feared men in boxing. This is the ultimate test for me.”
He added: “I’m taking this with my eyes wide open, I know I’m facing the best cruiserweight in the world, the best since Evander Holyfield in my opinion, an amazing fighter who can do everything and I’m happy to go in there against him and once again prove the whole world wrong. He’s a monster they all say I can’t beat but it’s not my first time at the rodeo. I’ve heard it all before. Let’s just see if he can answer all the questions I’ve had to answer throughout my career.
“Can he get off the floor? Can he come back from a nasty cut? Can he fight through bad injuries? Can he come from behind on the scorecards? Can he provide a one-punch knockout when it’s needed? All these questions I’ve answered on umpteen occasions.
“What I can promise is I will not be in awe of this man. I will not allow him to rattle five-, six-, seven-punch combinations. He will see someone that will never give in, ever. I’ve fought people far quicker, far more powerful. What I haven’t fought is someone who puts all the things together as good as he does. He can’t show me something I haven’t seen before.
“The world says I can’t beat him, can I outbox him? Probably not. Can I chin him? Absolutely. I’m the quickest cruiserweight he has ever fought and when I hit him he’s going to know I am the hardest cruiserweight he has ever fought.
“There ain’t a man I’ve ever shared a ring with who hasn’t felt the same thing ‘how in God’s name has that skinny fat freak just hit me so hard’. And he’s going to feel the same.”
Usyk, 31, become the first man to hold all four cruiserweight titles after winning them as part of World Boxing Super Series, Usyk entered the competition with the WBO then added the rest by beating Mairis Breidis in the semi final for the WBC and then added the IBF and WBA crowns by beating Murat Gassiev in the final.
Usyk, said to Sky Sports, “ I’ve been preparing for this fight for a long time and i’m delighted that we’ve got the venue and the date finalised. I cannot wait to fight in the UK.”
One Night in Moscow: Usyk Outclasses Gassiev
By: Ste Rowen
We have a new undisputed champion and king of the cruiserweights. Oleksandr Usyk outclassed the previously unbeaten, Murat Gassiev to claim supremacy of the 200lb division.
The ring walks, the atmosphere, but maybe not the fight itself. Everything we hoped would be tonight almost was. Usyk’s class showed but Gassiev’s quality went missing.
Photo Credit: World Boxing Super Series Twitter Account
The first bell rang and one of the most important fights of this decade began. Gassiev, in metallic-black shorts with a white stripe, seemed to be going with the same tactics as the beginning of his semi-final bout with Yunier Dorticos, allowing Usyk the centre ground and see what he had to give. Usyk, in the white, gold and blue of Ukraine, stalked Murat around the ring, patiently firing off the jab. The two clearly respected the other’s skillset.
It took a minute of the 2nd round for ‘Iron’ Gassiev to show his Ukrainian foe what he was about, landing a heavy head and body combination, which got the crowd going. Usyk was the more active of the two but it was clear, as most predicted, that Murat’s power was a massive influencer in the way Oleksandr was fighting.
It was thought by many that the Russian’s boxing aptitude was underrated heading into tonight, but it was undoubted, even from the early rounds, no other big man moves like Usyk. Heavyweight, Tyson Fury perhaps comes closest, but the Ukrainian has displayed this kind of fluidity consistently against the best of his division. Through rounds 3 & most of 4 it was on show again. It’s testament to Murat that he kept his composure and didn’t allow himself to show frustration early on. However, at the end of the 4th, ‘Iron’ landed a massive right hand from the waist that clearly shook the Ukrainian, enough for Usyk to come in close and hold until the bell.
Usyk proved he was prepared for his opponent’s power though, as he resumed his jab and move tactics into the next round and showed no signs of weariness from that right hand. Into round 7, and the WBC & WBO champion was into his rhythm now, comfortable with his razor sharp 1-2’s and move. Even if he lacked the power his opponent held, Usyk was fighting as if it was an Olympic event.
Gassiev needed to disrupt his rival’s flow. It was clear by the 8th, the Ukrainian was on top. The stablemate of Gennady Golovkin, even with the occasional, cleanly shot, right hook couldn’t force the 2012 Olympic gold medallist back.
By the start of the 10th Usyk was well on top. Murat just looked as if he had no answers, as if Usyk was a step too far. Oleksandr by now had added a nastiness to his shots, they seemed to be taking a little more out of ‘Iron’ than before. In between 9 & 10, Gassiev’s trainer, Abel Sanchez was heard saying,
‘’You’ve got 3 rounds…You’re not going to get the decision unless you put this man on the floor.’’
But what could the Russian do? The southpaw in Usyk was too elusive, too demoralising in every punch he landed. He tapped on Gassiev’s guard and then was gone by the time Murat looked up
In the championship rounds of the WBSS semi-final between Gassiev vs. Dorticos, Murat had the upper hand, it was by no means a formality but ‘Iron’ had the momentum and the lead. Tonight, in round 11, it was one-hitter-quitter time for ‘Iron’.
Does Murat only respect power? He knew Lebedev and Dorticos had it, as well as a world class chin that’s why when they met, Gassiev’s output was high and his boxing measured. Tonight? Not even close. Maybe the Ukrainian just has Gassiev’s number.
As round 12 was upon us, it was now or never, and Abel Sanchez was audibly telling his fighter that in the corner. Usyk never veered from the game plan, firing off fast paced three-punch point scoring combos. They weren’t testing Gassiev’s chin, they were testing his mentality, and with a minute left of the 12th, Murat looked done.
The final 10 seconds, an Usyk Ali-Shuffle, and then the final bell. How fitting for one of the greatest boxing displays in a long time.
The three were from the US and Belgium, we can trust these guys, right? Turns out we could, unlike some of tonight’s undercard bouts. There was no doubt, and the scorecards returned as 120-108, 119-109, 119-109 all in favour of the WBC, IBF, WBA, WBO, Ring Magazine and the Muhammad Ali Trophy champion of the world, Oleksandr Usyk.
Speaking post-fight, the now beltless Gassiev, and now 26-1 (19KOs), was complimentary to his opponent,
‘‘I want to congrats Usyk’s team. I want to thank all boxing fans. This is a very good experience for me…Every fighter is different, and you never know what will happen, you just do the best job you can do. In cruiserweight division you have a chance from first round to the last round. I listen to my corner and do my best.’’
Usyk, now 15-0 (11KOs), was obviously in a much more jubilant mood, loosely translated, the cruiserweight king said,
‘‘Thanks God. Thank you to everyone in my training camp. I was this good in the ring because of my team…The first thing I thought when my hand was raised, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ.’.’’
‘‘We need to take a rest, after that… I heard Tony Bellew is looking for a fight. Tony Bellew, are you ready? If he doesn’t wanna go down, I will go up.’’
Whatever happens next, for the first time in cruiserweight history, all four belts now belong to one man.
Cecilia Braekhus vs. Inna Sagaydakovskaya
Fighting for every belt conceivable in the women’s game, Cecilia Braekhus retained her undisputed status by defeating unbeaten challenger Inna Sagaydakovskaya via 10-round decision.
From the first bell, and as expected, Braekhus looked the more comfortable of the two boxers, Inna 7-0 (3KOs), wasn’t afraid to let her hands go and attempt to gain the early respect from the ‘First Lady’ but, the Norwegian was efficient with her punches. When Sagaydakovskaya threw – and missed – three shots, Cecilia landed cleanly with one.
In round three, with Braekhus on top, the undisputed champion slipped and as she was down, the Russian helped herself to a free shot. It did nothing but anger Cecilia. The overhand right from the Norwegian seemed to be landing every time. ‘Ice Queen’ Sagaydakovskaya, though persistent, was unable to stop the power punches landing.
By round 7, the ‘First Lady, trained by Jonathan Banks, was proving her class. The latest challenger to her throne was very game but ultimately a level below. Round 8 seemed to epitomise the fight.
The Colombian-born, Braekhus, went through the motions, making every shot, every manoeuvre seem simple, as the ‘Ice Queen’ struggled to find a way in and land a bout-changing punch.
Sagaydakovskaya’s conditioning is to be applauded. She was relentless in her offense, even in 2-minute rounds, and so obviously behind. Braekhus almost took her Russian foe out before the final bell as she put her foot down in the 10th, but even though she didn’t get Inna out of there early, it was mightily impressive from the welterweight.
The final scorecards weren’t revealed, but Braekhus was announced as the winner by unanimous decision and still, the WBC, IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO welterweight champion of the world.
Fedor Chudinov vs. Nadjib Mohammedi
Fighting for the WBA ‘International’ super middleweight strap, Fedor Chudinov scored a controversial 12-round split decision victory over Nadjib Mohammedi.
The two fighters made a tentative start to the bout, both choosing to fight off non-committal jabs, and it was close heading into round four, if a little too slow for the crowd’s liking. Chudinov seemed to have the edge though. His punches were having more of an effect on Mohammedi than the Frenchman’s were having on Fedor.
‘Flat footed’ is something that is continuously used to describe the Russian, and in little bursts of the fight, Chudinov was victim to brief, quick-handed assaults from his opponent that a more agile boxer would’ve avoided.
The bell for round 6 seemed to flick a switch in Mohammedi, who headed into tonight with a 40-5 (23KOs) record, as he came out swinging, trying to gain the initiative in a fight lacking sustained action. Whilst Chudinov did regain control of the pace of the fight, he continued to use his head as his best defence, and even through rounds 7 & 8, when the Russian was on top, Nadjib was landing point scoring counters which the judges should’ve noticed.
Mohammedi, who built his career fighting at light heavyweight, was unbeaten as a super middle and in rounds 9 & 10 he looked the brighter and more comfortable of the two. By now, Fedor had been resigned to wild, hopeful swinging. The championship rounds gave us more of the same from the Frenchman, specifically in the 10th as he teed off on his Russian foe’s face. There wasn’t even any urgency from Fedor as the bell rang for the 12th round, he was robotic in his movements – if the robot was slowly shutting down.
The fight went the distance, and it felt as if only ‘hometown’ judge’s cards stood between Nadjib and the victory. Sadly, this is boxing, and that’s exactly what we got. The judge’s scores came back as, 115-113, 111-118, 116-112, officially, a split decision victory in favour of Chudinov. Even Fedor, now 18-2 (12KOs) couldn’t disguise his surprise in having his arm raised. The Moscow crowd booed the result and then cheered Mohammedi as he protested in the ring.
The only semblance of justice now is for an immediate rematch to be called, don’t expect Mohammedi to return to Russia anytime soon.
Mairis Briedis vs. Brandon Deslaurier
World Boxing Super Series semi-finalist and former WBC cruiserweight champion, Mairis Briedis of Latvia scored a run of the mill 10-round unanimous decision victory over no-hoper Brandon Deslaurier.
Briedis, tonight’s main event injury reserve, went in for the kill straight away. His height and ring presence forcing Deslaurier onto the back foot immediately. It was clear from his physique and array of head and body punching that Mairis had taken training as seriously as if he was fighting in the final against Usyk or Gassiev.
Every now and then ‘The Gypsy Bomber’, Deslaurier landed a single punch that, for half a second, gave Briedis something to think about, but through to round 3, there was only one man winning this fight. More of the same continued into the 5th but, Brandon looked more comfortable now, fighting off the backfoot, maybe believing, at some point, the 3rd best cruiserweight in the world would tire.
He didn’t, and even though Deslaurier proved more resilient than he looked, into round 8, Mairis donning a pretty impressive handlebar moustache, was proving two or three levels above his French foe. Deslaurier is of course not even close to the challenge that Briedis faced when he took on tonight’s WBSS finalist, Usyk, but it does make you wonder, if the Latvian had started a little more liberally, a little less jab-and-hold at times against the Ukrainian, maybe he would’ve been fighting a very different kind of fight tonight.
The 10th and final round didn’t change either fighter’s tact. The former WBC champ beat and bullied the Frenchman around the ring, but it seemed as if he was holding something back. Briedis seemed happy enough with his performance by the final bell, and after all, the result was never really in doubt. The final scorecards were all of course, in favour of Mairis.
Now, 24-1 (18KOs), there are so many great matchups to look forward to for Briedis. Whether it be Usyk or Gassiev, fellow defeated semi-finalist Yunier Dorticos, or any of the other Ring Magazine’s top 10 200lb fighters. You have to seriously go out of your way to make a bad fight at cruiserweight.
In the non-televised bouts…
– The latest in a long line of rising Ukrainian prospects, Serhii ‘El Flaco’ Bohachuk, fighting at junior middleweight, moved to 10-0 (10KOs) with a stoppage victory over Georgian, Nikolozi Gviniashvili.
– In another 154lb bout, Konstantin Ponomarev, 34-0 (13KOs) heading into the bout, tasted his first professional defeat as he dropped a split decision to fellow Russian, and now 7-0 (6KOs), Sergey Vorobiev. 94-96, 97-94, 96-94 were the final scorecards after 10 rounds.
– The early surprise on the card, middleweight, Magomed Madiev, now 11-0-1 (4KOs) fought out a 10-round split decision draw with Argentine, Guido Nicolas Pitto. Mediev was expected to take the WBA ‘Asia’ and IBF ‘International’ belts up for grabs, but the final scorecards returned as, 96-94, 94-96, 95-95.
– Former junior amateur world champion, Vladimir Shishkin moved to 7-0 (4KOs). The super middleweight stopped Russian southpaw, Gasan Gasanov in the 5th round to claim the WBA ‘Continental’ strap.
– Denis Shafikov moved to 40-4-1 (20KOs) thanks to an underwhelming 10-round unanimous decision victory over Filipino journeyman, Jhon Gemino.