I NOTICED Ukrainian Olympic champion Oleksandr Usyk was interviewed in Boxing News recently. I refereed him a few months ago, and last weekend I acted as a judge in his fight with South African Jonny Muller.
When I first saw him in April it was thought that he may blow up into a heavyweight and become a possible opponent for Anthony Joshua. Boxing News editor Matt Christie asked me to see what I thought about him.
Firstly I only looked at him as a possible opponent for Joshua and he was a long way off, as he would need to bulk up a fair amount and in doing so, would he lose some hand speed, and ring agility and I trashed the thoughts of him getting anywhere but last week I changed my mind.
When I saw him again I realised I was not looking at a future heavyweight champion but a future cruiserweight king. For me Usyk is the Anthany Joshua of the cruiserweights. He has good hand speed, good ring movement, a knockout punch, and he is a southpaw, which may be an advantage. The former Olympic champion has personality, and he also seems to have his feet firmly planted on the floor. He is 28 years old and does not have those extra years that Anthany Joshua will have.
Usyk has only had eight fights as a professional and all eight have ended inside the distance, and again before I go too overboard with either fighter, I haven’t seen anyone hit them on the chin and see how they react to that kind of treatment. If they go down, can they get up? If they get up can they defend themselves? Will they have the nous to grab hold, and if they are really hurt, ignore the referee’s call to break and take a warning which in turn gives them those extra few seconds recovery time? This is what is meant by a learning curve, it is something our own Frank Bruno never really learned to do. It is no disgrace to take a knee, it keeps you in the fight and also gives one time to re-organise.
As for where Usyk is now I think he would beat all the British cruiserweights now with only eight fights under his belt including Ola Afolabi, Tony Bellew and also the German Firat Arslan. Although he doesn’t have too much time on his side to learn his trade, he has a couple of years as an apprentice and then he can rule the cruiserweights like Wladimir Klitschko has with the heavies.