Fighter Of The Week: Oleksandr Usyk

Oleksandr Usyk becoming the undisputed cruiserweight champ, capturing the Ali Trophy by winning the WBSS tournament and then his sensational knockout of the year victory over former world champ Tony Bellew seems like a lifetime ago. An injury pushed back Usyk’s heavyweight debut, which was originally scheduled for May and two opponents dropping out, Carlos Takam due to promotional reasons and Tyrone Spong due to a positive drug test. However in front of a nearly packed Wintrust Arena in Chicago, that was filled to the brim with Ukrainian faithful, Usyk did not disappoint. Putting together a dominant and picturesque performance. Officially scoring a seventh round TKO over Chazz Witherspoon of Philadelphia. Usyk moved his record to 17-0 (13), established himself as a legitimate heavyweight, reminded us why he is pound for pound one of the best fighters on earth and captured our Fighter of the Week award.

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Usyk’s first round as a heavyweight was a cautious one, working off the jab and controlling the bigger and slower Chazz Witherspoon, not letting him move to the inside and making him miss from long range. The former undisputed cruiserweight champ picked up the pace in the second and third rounds. Scoring with more lead left hands and two and three punch combinations. Throwing more punches in bunches and keeping the work rate up like he did as a cruiserweight the fight became extremely one sided in the fifth as Witherspoon became target practice and staggered the Philly fight several times in the fifth and hurting him badly bringing referee Hector Afu in to took a good hard look before allowing the fight to continue. The sixth round was Usyk’s best he backed Witherspoon against the ropes and wobbled him with a left hand and followed it up with a crisp right hook sending Witherspoon reeling, Usyk than battered his opponent against the ropes for the remainder of the round. The seventh round proved to be the last and the final minute of the stanza Usyk teed of, hitting Witherspoon with one left hook after another and had him in a world a trouble. At the end of the round Witherspoon’s corner stopped the bout giving Usyk the TKO victory and a successful heavyweight debut.

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Promoter Eddie Hearn said that Oleksandr Usyk’s next bout will be for the WBO heavyweight title. There will be no other in between fight. That next opponent will be the winner of the Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz rematch scheduled for December 7th in Saudi Arabia. A title shot he will be mandated for. Usyk walked in the ring at 215 pounds a smaller heavyweight by today’s standard but he never seemed to be at a power deficit or physically over matched by the bigger man. Usyk won’t be a big heavyweight and given his natural strengths are his speed, flexibility and mobility bulking up the former cruiserweight may make him slower and less flexible doing more harm than good. The 215-pound version is the version that will be competing against the highest level of heavyweight, meaning he will be giving up no less than 30 pounds in the ring when he fights the winner of Joshua-Ruiz II.

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