By Max Warren
Oleksandr Usyk became the first fighter to hold all four major world championship belts at cruiserweight by defeating Murat Gassiev in July, 2018.
At 31 years of age, he has already carved out a tremendous career, receiving the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and winning the World Boxing Super Series. Many boxing experts expected Gassiev to be Usyk’s toughest challenge to date, and a measuring stick for how Usyk may fare if he decides to move up to heavyweight.
Usyk passed this test with flying colors. He arguably won all 12 rounds, and displayed a granite chin in the process. Anatoly Lomachenko, father and trainer of Vasyl Lomachenko, has worked with Usyk extensively, and there are evident similarities between the two Ukrainian superstar fighters. Both do fine work utilizing their jab and lateral movement.
The initial question that arises when mentioning a move to heavyweight is his ability to punch for power. This will not be an issue, as he has a high punch output and doesn’t sit down on many of his punches. When the moment presents itself for him to utilize his power, he takes full advantage.
He has stopped 11 of his 15 opponents. None of the current top heavyweights have experienced the boxing IQ and movement that Usyk displays. He is constantly in his opponents’ face with the jab, and remains active through every moment of each round. His defense will also frustrate heavyweight opposition. Usyk, who won Olympic gold at heavyweight, is fully equipped to move up a division, and from a skill standpoint he surpasses any heavyweight in the world.
Gassiev possesses comparable power to heavyweights such as Dillian Whyte, Joseph Parker, and Bryant Jennings. The only question that remains is whether Usyk can withstand the power of either Deontay Wilder or Anthony Joshua. If Usyk is capable of taking punches from the most powerful heavyweights out there, there is no question that he can defeat anyone in the division.
Tony Bellew is slated to move back down to cruiserweight in order to face Usyk for the undisputed cruiserweight championship. This bout is inevitable, especially with Usyk joining Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, the same promotional banner that Bellew fights under.
Hearn is eying November 10 as a prospective date for the two to step into the ring. Both fighters are on an all-time high after winning the biggest fights of their careers, Bellew knocking out former heavyweight titlist David Haye in May at the O2 Arena in London, England, and Usyk outclassing Gassiev en route to a unanimous decision victory. Bellew is at the back end of his career, and doesn’t plan on facing the giants of the heavyweight division (Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Deontay Wilder).
He is likely to retire soon, due to his age, and he has also expressed concern for the tremendous toll boxing has taken on his body. On the other hand, Usyk clearly has the fire to continue fighting, and he has never come close to losing a match. He is a source of Ukrainian national pride along with fellow countryman Vasyl Lomachenko, and plans on continuing to solidify his spot as the best cruiserweight in the world before moving up in weight.