AGE AND PHYSICAL EQUIPMENT
USYK: The 33-year-old Ukrainian might already be past his prime. He has a long career behind him (amateur and pro) and is yet to prove his credentials in the top division after a significant rise in weight. Certainly, it’s a stretch to say he’s a natural heavyweight but at 6ft 3ins, he’s an inch-and-a-half taller than Dereck Chisora and also trumps him in reach (78ins to 74). The slick Oleksandr Usyk has an abundance of gifts that he can use to his advantage against bigger but slower behemoths.
CHISORA: It’s difficult to say which Chisora was better or more effective: The one who gave Vitali Klitschko and David Haye hard fights or today’s seek-and-destroy model who is noticeably stronger and heavier of punch. The truth might be somewhere in between but the former would have been better equipped for Usyk, one senses. At 36, Chisora might be fitter, but he’s slower than he used to be, lacks the variety of old and has suffered nine career defeats.
EDGE: Three years younger and with significantly less punishment under his belt, this category belongs to the taller and longer Usyk.
USYK: A standout amateur and thus far largely faultless as a professional. His education is top class. From 2016 to 2018, he was fighting the best in his division in consecutive bouts. Going against him here, though, is his lack of heavyweight experience. As a professional, he has only beaten a worn out Chazz Witherspoon. However, his World Series of Boxing record shows him bossing current professional heavies over the five-round distance (like Joe Joyce, Mahammadrasul Majidov and Junior Fa).
CHISORA: Easy to dismiss Chisora’s amateur career when comparing it to the likes of Usyk but he won an ABA title in 2006. As a professional, he’s won the British, Commonwealth and European titles and challenged for the WBC belt. If you consider the opponents he’s faced (Vitali Klitschko, Tyson Fury, Robert Helenius, David Haye, Carlos Takam, Dillian Whyte, Kubrat Pulev, Agit Kabayel, David Price) it’s hard to name a more experienced active heavyweight.
EDGE: In terms of heavyweight experience, Chisora is a long way ahead.
USYK: Difficult to pinpoint one, at least in the context of this bout. However, taking the unbeaten records of Krzysztof Glowacki, Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev should be highlighted, also the manner in which he clinically took Tony Bellew apart after overcoming a difficult start. We should also remember he is the only man to beat current heavyweight contender Michael Hunter. In each of those bouts – all difficult on paper – Usyk made adjustments in the blink of an eye to win.
CHISORA: The astonishing KO of Carlos Takam in 2018 is the best showing of recent years. He sucked back inhumane levels of punishment before somehow finding the fight-ending blow in round eight. But, if we’re looking for evidence of how he might beat Usyk, that’s probably not the best example to use. He boxed smartly for long spells of the Whyte rematch, he showed flashes of promise to unsettle the faster and more refined David Haye but the manner in which he bullied Robert Helenius, while controlling the pace and distance, was Chisora at his best.
EDGE: Usyk always looks comfortable whoever he’s fighting. Chisora, it’s fair to say, does not. However, the Englishman has to get the nod here by virtue of the fact he is a career heavyweight and a proven force in the division.
USYK: He did not really convince in his most recent bout against Chazz Witherspoon but we can excuse that showing, at least for now, because he was getting used to the new weight and fighting a late substitute. But when looking for clues to where he might come unstuck here, look no further than the success Breidis and, to a lesser extent, Bellew enjoyed in 2018. In both bouts, Usyk found his body under attack and his southpaw lead countered effectively.
CHISORA: The rematch loss to Tyson Fury was horrifically one-sided and though we’re now told the build-up to that bout was littered with problems for “Del Boy”, his old heavyweight rival beat him up while switching to southpaw. The only other two times he’s been stopped came from left-handed blows. Dillian Whyte and Haye both ended matters with the left hook, a punch that Usyk is particularly adept at throwing.
EDGE: When naming Usyk’s worst showings it’s largely nit-picking but the same cannot be said when examining Chisora’s nine losses.
USYK: Everything he does well is a consequence of his superlative footwork. Several opponents have been left bamboozled by his ability to change direction, shorten distance or lengthen the range exceptionally quickly. Generally, his hands are fast, his jab is accurate and his whole body is in tune. He uses feints to mount attacks and he’s quick to escape when trouble is close. Throw in his southpaw stance, his speed, intelligence and hearty dig, and he’s a formidable opponent for anyone in the division.
CHISORA: Though we mentioned Chisora being stopped by left-handed punches, it’s also important to note that the four actual southpaws he’s faced (Lee Swaby, Carl Baker, Senad Gashi and Szpilka), he’s beaten. The veteran is immensely strong and those looping blows he throws have the potential to end the fight. He’ll keep banging away whenever he’s close and even shots to the arms and shoulders, if Usyk’s body is feeling the strain from putting on the extra weight, could have an effect.
EDGE: What Usyk does well is what Chisora has always struggled with the most.
USYK: We just don’t know how effective he is at heavyweight nor how well he can take a full-bloodied heavyweight punch. There has to be question marks about the extra mass on his joints and if being bigger affects his speed and elusiveness. And even at cruiserweight, he could get hit. The Ukrainian has had a tendency to leave his chin high and, even at amateur and WSB level, Usyk did not look hugely comfortable taking punches, particularly to the top of his head.
CHISORA: Chisora, who can get disillusioned if he is struggling to land cleanly, will find it exceptionally hard to get his feet in the right position to make the most of that advantage. The southpaw smarts and movement of his rival will be a huge problem – even Szpilka had success against Chisora in the first round. He takes a lot of punches as he wades forward, he’s been outboxed, and though he’s ludicrously tough, the knockouts and punishment he’s endured will eventually catch up with him.
EDGE: We know about Chisora’s weaknesses yet we can only estimate what might lead to the downfall of Usyk.
When this contest was announced earlier this year (and then postponed due to the pandemic) the first instinct was Usyk to win, and win big.
Chisora doesn’t do well against moving targets and Usyk – who has two of the best feet in the sport – is not only a moving target, but also a moving assassin. His accuracy and ability to create the space to land his shots time and again, particularly against substantially slower rivals, would appear to be a key to victory that the veteran won’t be able to overcome.
Yet as the bout draws close, the question marks over Usyk the heavyweight keep reappearing. Fighters always lose speed when they go up in weight. And as we saw with David Haye and Evander Holyfield, injuries are common when loading muscle onto a frame unused to such heavy lifting. Usyk, remember, is likely to be at least 20lbs heavier than when it’s perceived he was at his best. What this does to his feet and stamina is unknown.
Expect Chisora to drive forward from the opening bell and swing at whatever he can get close to: Body, arms, shoulders, gloves. If you squint, you can certainly picture Del catching Usyk if the smaller man mistimes an escape from the corner or ropes. Certainly, Chisora must sap the strength from Usyk in any way he can, aim for the body when in close and not allow the Ukrainian to dictate anything.
But that’s an incredibly hard ask for the veteran. And though Usyk’s body is likely to be under significant strain in his new weight class, he’s now had a year to get used to the extra mass and he’s not yet had a succession of punishing camps and fights at heavyweight that came back to haunt Holyfield and Haye in their later years. Indeed, if anyone is war-torn at this point, it’s Chisora.
All logic points towards a Usyk victory and the feeling here is that his faster hands and feet will see him build up an early lead.
The safe bet is Usyk to win widely on points but the sheer volume of punches that will land, particularly as the bout progresses, make the pick a stoppage victory for Oleksandr, as the corner or referee rescue Chisora in the second half.