By Scott Gilfoid: Oleksander Usyk is looking past his opponent Tony Bellew for their fight this Saturday towards a bigger one in the future against IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) says he plans on immediately retiring from the sport of boxing after he unifies the heavyweight division.
Usyk retiring after a win over Joshua would be hard for his promoter Eddie Hearn to deal with. Hearn would need Joshua to avenge the loss for him to be able to bring back his boxing fans that he’ll lose in getting beaten by Usyk.
While it would seem unlikely that Usyk, 31, will be able to defeat the bigger 6’6″ 245 lb Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) at this time, you can’t rule out the possibility of that happening. Joshua, 28, didn’t look good in beating 39-year-old Povetkin last September, and he’s almost 40 and not much bigger than Usyk. If a fighter as old and small as Povetkin can give Joshua problems, then Usyk could beat him.
”I need to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world,”Usyk said to Seconds Out. ”As soon as I become [undisputed heavyweight champion after beating Anthony Joshua], I will turn back and say, ‘Guys, thank you very much for your participation, thanks to everyone.’ I will go to the ground and say, ‘Thanks a lot.’ I will go home,” Usyk said.
For some reason, Usyk isn’t mentioning World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) as part of the process of unifying the division. If Usyk beats Joshua, he won’t be the unified champion at heavyweight. Usyk will hold 3 of the 4 belts. He won’t be the unified champion until he defeats Wilder to win the fourth and final belt. There’s a chance that Joshua and Wilder will face each other before Usyk gets an opportunity to fight for the titles. That would be the best hope for Usyk to easily win the four belts and then retiring as soon as possible. However, it’s still very unlikely that Usyk will succeed with his goal of unifying the division. Usyk’s last opponent Murat Gassiev staggered him with a right hand in one of the few shots he landed in the fight.
Joshua and Wilder punch harder than Gassiev, and they would be enjoying at least a six inch reach advantage over Usyk. Joshua and Wilder would have a much better chance of landing their power shots on the chin of Usyk than Gassiev did. Usyk had a two inch reach advantage over Gassiev, and he was able to outsmart the Russian by throwing constant jabs and punches. That style won’t work to keep Joshua and Wilder from holding back with their shots. For Usyk to beat those two, he’ll need to be able to outwork them and take their best power shots.
“I became the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world, but it’s not the final step for me,” Usyk said. “It’s just the end of one stage. I’m on my way to a final step to Anthony Joshua. My company with which I belong to K2 Promotions, has signed the co-promotional deal with Matchroom for several fights, and I think they did discuss this [fight] opportunity, and they’re in the process of discussing it at this moment. I’m confident this fight is under discussion. A lot of people say I shouldn’t go up in weight, that I’m too small for it, my size doesn’t allow me to be victorious in this division. All my life I’ve been hearing the skepticism, ‘you should not do this, you will not succeed at this,” Usyk said.
It’s possible that when Usyk does move up to heavyweight, his promoter Eddie Hearn will have him run the gauntlet by matching him against his other Matchroom Boxing fighters Jarrell Miller, Dillian Whyte and Dave Allen before he eventually puts him in with Joshua.
Hearn wants the Joshua vs. Usyk fight, and he’ll do everything he can to make sure the two of them face each other in the near future. That means that Hearn will likely keep Joshua from fighting Wilder until after he puts together the Joshua-Usyk fight. There’s a lot of money to be made for Joshua in a fight against Usyk. It’s a more winnable fight for Joshua than a match against Wilder.
Usyk is said to have given former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko a lot of problems in sparring with him in the past.
“Not just before the Tony Bellew fight, I had sparring partners from the heavyweight division before the [Murat] Gassiev fight, and I got used to that,” Usyk said about the sparring he’s done against heavyweights. ”Wladimir Klitschko, it’s an honor for me to box like him. I was learning so many things. He tries to teach me so many things,” Usyk said.
If Usyk was able to dominate Wladimir in sparring, then there’s a chance that he’ll be able to do the same thing against Joshua when they face each other in the future. Wladimir was clearly the superior fighter in his fight with Joshua last year in April 2017. Joshua won the fight based on Wladimir’s poor punch resistance, but he wasn’t as skilled as him. Usyk has similar boxing skills as Wladimir.
Bellew, 35, doesn’t like the idea of being overlooked by Usyk, but there’s nothing he can do about. Usyk is the king of the jungle right now at cruiserweight, and Bellew is low hanging fruit compared to the guys that the 2012 Olympic gold medalist has been beating lately. Bellew doesn’t have the credentials at cruiserweight for him to be taken seriously by Usyk. It Bellew had stayed at cruiserweight and proven himself against the best like Mairis Briedis, Yunier Dorticos, Denis Lebedev, Maxim Vlasov, Beibut Shumenov, Murat Gassiev and Krzystof Glowacki, he’d be taken seriously by Usyk. Unfortunately, Bellew is seen as a guy that was matched selectively against beatable fighters at cruiserweight by Hearn, and then he left the division after the World Boxing Council was ready to order him to fight Briedis. Usyk can’t take Bellew seriously because he didn’t stick around to test himself against the best.