OLEKSANDR USYK has always been a wonderful fighter, both as a pro and an amateur, both as a cruiserweight and a heavyweight.
Yet, 12 months ago, despite this brilliance, his name was a word unsaid, and he was someone whose skill-set far outweighed his profile and market value. Because of this, he was left alone – untouched. Like the bigger boy in the playground who’d no doubt walk away with your lunch if you happened to come to blows, he was labelled “not worth it”.
Now, however, following his exploits in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) cruiserweight tournament, this opinion has changed somewhat. Now, Usyk, with back-to-back wins over Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev, is still considered a wonderful fighter and a danger to all who cross his path, only now his profile and market value has caught up.
That’s good news for boxing fans keen to see the Ukrainian mix it with the best heavyweights in the world, and it’s good news for Usyk, too, a man who deserves to make the kind of money his talent should be generating.
Since last Saturday, in fact, the night he thrashed Murat Gassiev to win all four cruiserweight titles, Usyk has been the name on the tip of more than one tongue. It started with a post-fight call-out from Usyk to Tony Bellew and has now snowballed to a point where there’s more than one well-known British heavyweight eyeing a future fight with arguably the cruiserweight division’s greatest talent.
“Joshua wants the Usyk fight,” Eddie Hearn, promoter of WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, said last week. “He is fascinated by that kind of thing because he wants to test himself against people who he thinks are brilliant. He thinks Usyk is brilliant. He is up for it.”
Usyk, 15-0 (11), has arrived in the big time the old-fashioned way: by being a good fighter and securing good wins rather than because he’s loud and obnoxious or handy on social media. And now he is here, and seemingly prepared to try his luck at heavyweight, there’s no limit to the undefeated cruiserweight king’s potential – financially speaking, that is.
“I think Usyk will struggle against the big boys like any cruiserweight would,” added Hearn. “Outside of Evander Holyfield and a few others, who has done it?
“Usyk’s plan is to fight Joshua and we have a plan for Usyk to get to Joshua. But he would have to go through Tony Bellew and potentially Dillian Whyte and maybe Dereck Chisora first.
“My only priority for Usyk is Tony Bellew but he has the ability to be in some huge heavyweight fights.”
The idea that a great fighter like Usyk must “go through” the likes of Bellew, Whyte and Chisora in order to get a shot at a heavyweight champion who has so far yet to achieve what Usyk did down at cruiserweight (namely, collect all four belts), is, admittedly, a little hard to stomach. But that, I suppose, is the reality of the situation and, moreover, serves as a reminder that being known remains preferable to being good in the eyes of promoters and anyone eager to make money from a prizefight.
Domestic fights always go down well in Great Britain and promoter Frank Warren says another one – one he describes as a “cracking fight” – is on its way.
This one involves Jack Catterall and Ohara Davies, both of whom belong to Warren’s promotional stable, and should, according to Warren, be done “very soon”.
Cracking fight! 💥
— Frank Warren (@frankwarren_tv) July 30, 2018
For different reasons, it’s a fight both need.
Catterall, 22-0 (12), has shown lots of potential so far as a pro but has long needed a step up in class, or at least a fight that grabs him some spotlight and attention. For too long under the radar, the 25-year-old needs his career to ignite and, ideally, needs an opponent like Davies to do some of the talking and headline-grabbing on his behalf.
Davies, on the other hand, is still after a bit of redemption, following a Josh Taylor humbling in 2017, and could do with a decent scalp on his record to show he’s more than just a social media rebel with an unnerving knack for saying the wrong things at the wrong time.
When on his best behaviour, we know Davies, 18-1 (14), can fight. He can punch, he’s athletic, and, at 26, has plenty of time to grow. But until he boxes someone like Catterall, someone similarly gifted and ambitious, we won’t know whether that Josh Taylor beat-down was a momentary blip or, instead, a sign of the Londoner’s limitations.
Catterall vs. Davies would, in so many ways, tell us everything we need to know about the both of them.