OLEKSANDR USYK’S passage to heavyweight has not been straightforward. The excellent Ukrainian became the undisputed cruiserweight champion in 2018 and was due to box at heavyweight for the first time earlier this year, only to suffer an unfortunate injury himself.
On Saturday (October 12) his delayed bow at heavyweight will take place in Chicago. But once again he’s been beset by misfortune. He was going to fight Tyrone Spong but on the Tuesday of fight week it emerged that the former kickboxer had seen two urine tests return anti-doping violations. The Illinois State Athletic Commission will not license him to box and rescinded their approval of the bout with Usyk.
Chazz Witherspoon has been brought in as the replacement. The 38-year-old American has a 38-3 (29) record. Chazz might be the second cousin of Tim Witherspoon but he shouldn’t be a formidable opponent for Usyk. He lost by stoppage to Seth Mitchell in 2012, Tony Thompson halted him in 2009 and he was disqualified against Chris Arreola in 2008.
But he sounds optimistic himself. “I can’t wait to face Usyk in Chicago,” he said. “I have been in training ready for a big fight, and it doesn’t get bigger than this. Oleksandr is stepping up to heavyweight – and he’s going to find out that it’s a totally different game.
“I’ve won my last eight fights and I really feel that I’ve been waiting in the wings for a huge opportunity like this and I am going to put every ounce of myself into the fight on this massive stage.”
But the fight itself should prove to be a good showcase for the Ukrainian. He can show off his expert footwork, speed of hand and mind and outclass Witherspoon. Victory should hopefully propel Usyk on to a major heavyweight fight. Afterall if the diminutive Andy Ruiz can win unified heavyweight belts, then Usyk can certainly be a problem for anyone in the division.