OLEKSANDR USYK has dazzled this year. The Ukrainian won the World Boxing Super Series to unify all four major world titles in the cruiserweight division. On Saturday he knocked out the former WBC champion Tony Bellew at the Manchester Arena to confirm himself as one of the finest fighters in the world today.
A keen observer of the contest was London cruiserweight Mikael Lawal. He has sparred Bellew and Usyk and knows better than most what makes the Ukrainian just so good.
“His footwork, everything, I can’t even try to pin point it, he’s like a whole, fully rounded fighter. Maybe one thing I would say, he doesn’t really have a mad amount of power,” Lawal told Boxing News. “But when you get tired and that, almost any punch can knock you out. Especially when you’re tired. He gets you tired mentally. You’re just drained. With him you’re constantly working, you’re constantly edgy because he doesn’t give you any time to breathe, to rest. It’s a lot harder. When I was sparring him the most I’d do was five, six rounds. [With] Bellew, I’d do eight, 10 rounds sparring. So it shows. I thought I couldn’t handle him maybe because of my lack of experience but I guess it wasn’t just that. He’s incredible.
“He always has his right hand in front of you. I don’t know, it was weird, I can’t even explain it. He’s very twitchy but in a very calm way. You could tell it’s a proper art for him, he knows what he’s doing. Everything he’s doing, he’s planning something else and if that doesn’t work he’s got a plan B, a plan C. He knows what he’s doing. The experience is just crazy.”
It was especially tough for Lawal who, after just seven amateur bouts and eight professional contests, is looking to learn as much as he can. Sparring Usyk and Bellew is about as good an education as young cruiserweight could ask for.
Usyk, Mikael is convinced, will be a challenge for anyone at 200lbs, or even heavyweight. “He’s definitely someone who I think anyone should watch out for, even heavyweights. The only thing about heavyweights is if they catch him… But he can outbox them. There’s nobody at heavyweight that can move especially the way he does. It’s more about heavy shots for them,” Lawal said.
Another former sparring partner on the Usyk-Bellew undercard also caught Lawal’s eye. Richard Riakporhe beat Sam Hyde, who sustained a bad injury to the eye. But Lawal is calling for a fight with fellow Londoner Riakporhe. “Watching that made me feel I would like to fight him,” Mikael said. “It would be a nice step up for me.
“Dillian Whyte is his manager, they’re going to speak to him and try to sort something out.”
Lawal is a adamant he could overpower him, a view informed by their sparring session “to a certain degree. I don’t think he can handle my power. I’ll give him something to think about.”
“He’s got a good right hand, I’ll give him that but there’s more to boxing than just the right hand. Almost everyone at cruiserweight has got a good right hand. It’s power and he’s got power, I’ve got power too and I don’t think he can handle my power,” he added.
“Let’s get it on. I think it would be a nice step up for both of us,” Lawal maintained. “Definitely Riakporhe, if he’s on it, I’d take it.
“I’m calling him out, it’ll be nice to get him.”