Usyk v Witherspoon Preview and Usyk’s Possible Impact on the Divison
By Jack Thomas Davies
We last saw the Ukranian sensation knock out much loved Tony Bellew in the Manchester Arena. As a farewell to the cruiserweight division and to the role as undisputed champion, we now finally see Usyk make his heavyweight debut in the windy city of Chicago.
Usyk’s journey from cruiserweight to heavyweight has already been filled with some trouble. Initially scheduled to face the game and tough Carlos Takam, Usyk pulled out with an injury to his bicep. Soon enough, Usyk was due to face Tyrone Spong this weekend, but with a failed drug test we should see Oleksandr come through against the late replacement Chazz Witherspoon.
After his last outing, former opponent Tony Bellew explains that the greatest struggle with fighting Usyk is his footwork. Always elusive, Usyk becomes difficult to pin down and puts himself in clever positions and angles to launch his combination. Against some of the more musclebound heavyweights, Usyk would be smart not to bulk up too much and to rely on his strengths in footwork and defence to outwork and outbox his future opponents.
As for the heavyweight division we can expect that Usyk will rise through the ranks quickly. If he comes through this weekend, we see that he will remain WBO mandatory and will be in line to face the winner of Ruiz vs Joshua at some point in 2020. More of a showcase fight, this weekend should be a good indication of how Usyk will fair against the heavier and taller men in the division. Standing at little over 6’4, Witherspoon is the first step of Usyk’s journey in the heavyweight division.
Both sharing a common opponent in Bellew, David Haye has confidence in Usyk with his step up to heavyweight. He claims that he can instantly become a world title contender and that “anybody who has unified all the belts in one weight can automatically step up to the weight above and slide into the top five or top ten”. As a long reigning champion, although he has not yet achieved anything in the heavyweight division, he can already be considered in the top 10 in the world.
We cannot be sure how easily Usyk made cruiserweight, maybe not having to cut weight will give him extra power. For what he lacks in size against some of the bigger challengers, he will be smart to prioritise his strengths and make up for what he lacks in footwork and defence. In any case, this is the beginning of a journey in a new division for perhaps one of the best decorated amateur and professional cruiserweights of all time.