ACCORDING to his co-promoter Eddie Hearn, there’s every chance Oleksandr Usyk, the unified world cruiserweight champion, makes his seemingly inevitable move to heavyweight in April.
The gifted Ukrainian was last seen stopping Tony Bellew in eight rounds in London and has since expressed a desire to one day advance to the sport’s big-money division, with a fight against Anthony Joshua, the current WBA, IBF and IBO champion, his top priority.
But first Usyk must ease his way into the weight-class and find his feet in the company of bigger and stronger men. He needs to establish himself in new surroundings. He needs to adjust. And Hearn believes he knows of a few potential candidates who could aid Usyk in his quest to do just that.
“Usyk could fight the winner or loser of [Whyte vs Chisora],” the promoter told Sky Sports.
“No-one really knows how good Usyk truly will be at heavyweight. We know he will be good, but can he mix it with the big boys? That is the fascination.”
“Usyk won’t mess around. You won’t see him fight someone average. Carlos Takam is a guy that would make sense – a bit small but powerful and strong.”
Takam, the Frenchman stopped inside eight rounds by Dereck Chisora in July, has found himself part of the Anthony Joshua/Sky Box Office franchise and will presumably bear additional fruit because of this. He boxes again this Saturday, for instance, back in London, back on Sky Sports, and is being kept relevant in the hope of using him again as a solid B-side for one of Matchroom Boxing’s big stars in 2019.
It might be Usyk. It might be someone else. Certainly, though, it would seem Usyk is destined to climb to heavyweight in the new year and only a fight against someone like Andre Ward, Hearn believes, could tempt Usyk to delay the inevitable.
“I think that would be the only fight that Usyk would stick around at cruiserweight for,” he said.
“[Usyk vs. Ward] is pure boxing. It is the absolute art of the sweet science. It would be the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, who is undefeated and retired, against the current best pound-for-pound fighter and the fighter of the year.
“There are so many different narratives. It would be a 50-50 fight, [with] Ward going up to cruiserweight. I have [spoken to Usyk about this] and I have put it to Ward. But I think it would take something unreasonable to bring Ward out of retirement.
“I think Usyk will move to heavyweight and box in America in April.”
It’s settled, then. Expect Oleksandr Usyk, arguably the finest cruiserweight of all time, to join the big boys in 2019.
When both were under contract with Top Rank, a fight between Terence Crawford and Manny Pacquiao seemed a natural.
It would have either represented the changing of the guard – one old superstar passing the torch to the latest – or the last hurrah for one of boxing’s greats. But, whatever the outcome, it seemed a sensible match to make when the time was right.
Now, of course, Pacquiao is no longer operating under the Top Rank promotional banner, having severed ties with promoter Bob Arum, and currently busy preparing for a January 19 showdown with Adrien Broner. Oh, and his new adviser is Al Haymon.
Crawford, meanwhile, is the WBO welterweight champion and arguably one of the finest talents in the game right now. He is in his prime, he has won world titles in three weight classes, and he is apparently more than a little irked by suggestions he avoided a fight with Pacquiao when both were on the same side and it appeared a relatively straightforward one to make.
“Listen, we’ve been calling for that fight since 2015,” he said in a Fox television interview. “Everybody knows. Bob Arum wanted to make that fight. Pacquiao and (trainer) Freddie Roach didn’t want the fight. They said if they fight me they wanted 20 million dollars. Basically, they outpriced themselves.”
On the face of it, there is clearly a far greater upside for Terence Crawford than there is Manny Pacquiao in any hypothetical matchup between the pair. Pacquiao remains a star, one of the big money draws in the sport, while Crawford is still looking for his breakout moment. Just as important, Crawford, perhaps America’s best boxer, is, at 31, 18 years Pacquiao’s junior, and a champion seemingly at ease with every style he encounters.
Alas, just as there were many reasons for the fight happening, there were probably just as many reasons for it not to happen.