Opinion: Oleksandr Usyk at heavyweight

Oleksandr Usyk had his big test among the big men and won a unanimous decision against Derek Chisora on DAZN. This was a proving ground fight with serious title fight implications as he is knocking on the door of the WBO to get his chance. With all of the rumors swirling about the Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury third fight being in danger and Eddie Hearn talking Fury vs Anthony Joshua in a total title unification for April 2021 it will be interesting to see what happens with Usyk. Alexander Povetkin KO’d Dillian Whyte to hold off a WBC mandated challenge and with Deontay Wilder being MIA and discussions of the rematch clause expiring it seems Fury might be free to make the big fight. Anthony Joshua is meeting Kubrat Pulev in a mandated IBF defense and he may be able to face Fury in April. However, it is likely Usyk can use his mandatory status to block the fight or force Joshua to vacate his title and thus pick up a vacated belt and take some shine off the Fury vs Joshua event.

Personally I hate the idea of Usyk robbing fans of the chance to get history with the first four belt champion in the heavyweight division. I know boxing has done plenty to devalue its belts and confuse casual fans but I think a total unification is much more important than giving a guy his shot after just 2 fights at the weight class and not having defeated a truly elite heavyweight. There were talks about Usyk facing Joseph Parker for the vacated WBO title earlier this year but I have always felt that this should be an eliminator to the big one. Some argue that stripping Joshua and giving Usyk a belt helps sell their eventual fight or Usyk vs Fury but I disagree. I’m not interested in another paper champion and devaluing titles to build fights by duping fans.

With that out of the way, I think Usyk is a very real threat in the division. I think heavyweight is an extremely top heavy weight class. I felt with Fury, Joshua and Wilder they were here and the rest was……………………………….here in terms of distancing in talent. I felt all 3 could be interchanged to make good and interesting fights with all 3 significant favorites over the field. I feel Usyk is right there with Evander Holyfield as far as the best cruiserweight fighters go but I have been slow to crown him as a favorite. Some cite his semi professional bouts at heavyweight during the World Series of Boxing to point to his legitimacy at heavyweight. Yes he beat a good fighter like Joe Joyce but the fights are not quite real high level pro fighting. His debut against Chazz Witherspoon was too much of a cake walk to tell us anything either. I’ll preface this by stating I only watched round 7 on of Uysk vs Chisora but I was mostly impressed. I scored all the rounds I watched to Usyk and he had enough power to wobble Chisora once or twice with a right hook and straight left hand combo. That said he still got caught and though he took the shots well he also seemed a little slower on his feet. He also relies heavily on his feet to be his defense and is not strong enough to stay inside and use a shoulder roll or advanced infighting to exploit these bigger and slower guys like James Toney did.

That said, I still see him as the favorite over most in the division. I have the RING top 10 as of October 17 and I think he is the favorite over the majority of the list. At this moment I think Povetkin may present some danger but that he would beat the non title holders in the top 10. Not knowing how Wilder rebounds from the Fury loss makes me think Uysky can be a problem. I feel Fury is just too big for him and with his athleticism and boxing skill he can compete with Usyk’s speed and movement. I also feel like Anthony Joshua should be the favorite here as well. I think he is good enough to be elite in the division. However, I’d like to see him prove it with wins over guys like Parker, Luis Ortiz, Oscar Rivas, or Andy Ruiz before he gets the shot caller status to take the belt off of Joshua without fighting for it.

At the end of the day the fans know who the real champion is whether or not they hold all the belts. The fighter makes the titles not the other way around. I’m excited to see what he can do versus the very best but I am not on the hype train just yet.

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