THE heavyweight clash between perennial contender Dereck Chisora and former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk is scheduled to take place on October 31, with Matchroom promoting the event and Sky Sports broadcasting on their box office platform. Lee Selby will take on George Kambosos Jnr on an undercard that is still taking shape. Wembley Arena has been mentioned as a potential venue.
Usyk-Chisora was originally scheduled for May but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Though it was hoped the event could host a limited number of fans, the second wave of the virus means this will be another behind-closed-doors show.
“To bounce back with this fight at this time is so important for boxing,” stated promoter Eddie Hearn. “You’ve either got to sit back and say ‘it’s not possible’ or find a way to make it happen. It’s an absolute firecracker and a fight that’s so important to the heavyweight division over the next few months.”
Usyk currently sits at No.1 in the WBO heavyweight rankings due to the sanctioning body’s rules which state should a champion relinquish a title to campaign in a higher weight class, they will automatically secure mandatory status in their new division. Chisora is ranked eighth by the same organisation. If Usyk wins, expect him to lobby for a 2021 shot at the WBO title currently held by Anthony Joshua.
The matchup makes sense for many reasons. Chisora, 36 and a veteran of 41 bouts, is the perfect foil for Usyk’s march towards a heavyweight title shot. The Englishman has been a fixture in and around the world rankings for a decade, is rarely in a bad fight and only loses to the best. Though a sizeable underdog at 9/2, Chisora should tell us more about the gifted Ukranian’s chances of ruling the banner division.
But Usyk, priced as a 1/7 favourite, is widely expected to win in a bout that is more 80/20 than 50/50. Because of that, some punters have already objected to this being on a pay-per-view platform. In truth, those grumbles would have carried more weight pre-lockdown, but today – in a world starved of income from ticket revenue – pay-per-view comes in handy when it comes to paying the bills.
Those bills will be significant. Usyk is no stranger to being handsomely rewarded following his triumphant run in the World Boxing Super Series and four of Chisora’s last five bouts have taken place on box office events. Neither fighter comes cheap. The cost of the undercard, the venue and coronavirus testing must also be considered.
Usyk has been out of the ring since defeating Chazz Witherspoon in seven rounds last October. One has to go back even further, to November 2018 when he stopped Tony Bellew in eight, for the last time he was in anything like a competitive fight.
“I have really missed boxing,” said Usyk. “I am working hard in my training camp to show a spectacular performance on October 31.
“I expect a real test in Dereck – he is strong, tough and resilient. He is a really big guy and he hits hard. As a cruiserweight, I reached the highest heights as undisputed champion and now I am following the same path as a heavyweight. I need to test myself against world-class heavyweights on my new road to undisputed and Dereck stands in front of me.
“Many people say that Dereck is a monster, but deep down he is a kind man. I don’t expect to see that good side of him. I know that he wants to break me, but I am water, wind and fire all together. Derek Chisora, I am coming for you.”
Chisora, typically, is showing no fear.
“Hello, Usyk, I’m ready for you,” said Chisora. “Usyk, I’ve been ready for you all year. It’s my home turf and after such a tough year for everyone, I’m going to give the British public the Halloween party they deserve and finally get revenge for my boy Tony Bellew.”
Chisora has been the busier of the two fighters. Since losing a December 2018 rematch to Dillian Whyte via 11th round knockout, Chisora has scored a 10-round points win over Senad Gashi and, more impressively, halted Artur Szpilka and David Price in two and four rounds respectively.
Usyk is a different beast altogether, as the 33-year-old’s new sparring partner Dave Allen revealed. The heavyweight contender, who has also sparred Tyson Fury and Joshua, has been sparring with Usyk three days a week.
“He’s got a special ability to work people out very quick,” Allen told Talk Sport.
“The one thing I noticed is on the first day I might’ve hit him with a certain shot, on the second day I might’ve hit him with another one, on the third I might’ve hit him with another. But I never hit him with the same shot again, I never hit him with the same shot twice.
“Even with something as simple as a left jab, you don’t hit him with it twice because he works it out very quickly. He just moves so well. I’ve not open-sparred welterweights, but I’ve body sparred them and been in the ring with them.
“And he’s as agile and as quick as a welterweight – a world class welterweight at that. That’s how well he moves.
“He’s a very special fighter. I think him and Tyson Fury are miles and away the most talented fighters I’ve ever shared the ring with.”
Chisora has lost to Fury twice. It will be interesting to see how he compares the two.