Feature | Nov 16 2018

What makes Oleksandr Usyk so good

Seasoned by sparring Oleksandr Usyk and Tony Bellew, Mikael Lawal now calls out London rival Richard Riakporhe, writes John Dennen
Oleksandr Usyk
Usyk was formidable cruiserweight Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

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.