We spoke to boxing experts to get their opinion on the heavyweight future of the World Boxing Super Series legend, Aleksandr Usyk.
In July 2018 Usyk conquered the cruiserweight division through the World Boxing Super Series – unified all major world titles including The Ring belt – and became the first-ever to take home the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy. Impressive wins over Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis, and Murat Gassiev paved the way for 200lbs supremacy.
And as a fitting cherry on top, the Ali Trophy was presented to Usyk – who shares the same birthday, Jan. 17, with Ali – by Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali after the final in Moscow.
After cementing his cruiserweight status against Tony Bellew, the overriding goal has been to take over the heavyweight division. The big question is: Can he do it? So far Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora have been defeated on the way to the biggest boys in the division and the ambition remains the same.
Usyk is the WBO mandatory challenger, Anthony Joshua has the WBO belt along with the WBA and IBF, and Usyk obviously wants his shot. But if Joshua clashes with Tyson Fury instead where does that leave the charismatic Ukrainian?
Our questions to the experts are: Who should he, or will he, fight next? Is there a wall he cannot climb, or is the sky the limit for Aleksandr Usyk?
Tom Gray, Associate Editor for Ring Magazine:
“I think Usyk can have serious success at heavyweight. In my opinion, he matches up well against most of the fighters in the top 10. I believe he has a solid chance against Anthony Joshua, and I would be fairly confident of him beating Deontay Wilder, too. The only fight where I would make him a huge underdog is Tyson Fury because Fury, along with the size advantage, can match him for agility and movement.
“A lot of fans were turned off by Usyk’s performance against Chisora, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. Firstly, Usyk, a fighter that relies on timing, had been inactive for a year and ring rust was evident. Second, Chisora is a relentless pressure fighter and it was difficult for Usyk to contain him. It’s horses for courses and styles make fights. Fans are fickle, though, and if Usyk looks great in his next outing, the detractors will be back on side in a flash!”
Rob Tebbutt, Managing Director for Boxing Social:
“While his heavyweight exploits haven’t necessarily set the world alight, Aleksandr Usyk remains one of the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters. However, since clearing out a star-studded cruiserweight division en route to collecting the inaugural Ali Trophy, he has struggled for ring time.
“Having boxed just twice since his win over Tony Bellew back in November of 2018, Usyk is now 34-years-old. With a succession of niggling injuries, it looks as though a combination of a long, distinguished amateur and a gruelling schedule against top-level opposition is starting to take its toll on his body. The added weight doesn’t seem to have helped matters.
“He is the mandatory challenger for the WBO title and has waited his turn. His next fight must be for the WBO heavyweight title. If Anthony Joshua is otherwise engaged with Tyson Fury, then I believe Usyk should – and most likely would – face the winner of all-New Zealand heavyweight clash between Joseph Parker (#3) and Junior Fa (#5) on February 27th. Failing that, a return bout in the professional game between Usyk and Joe Joyce (#2) could be made for the vacant or even Interim title.
“I feel Usyk may have slowed down somewhat as a heavyweight and doesn’t necessarily retain the same spring in his step. However, his defence and, in particular, his ring intelligence and technical ability, make him a threat to any heavyweight in the world.”
WBSS Cruiserweight stars moving north to Heavyweight:
Aleksandr Usyk – 2-0 as a heavyweight
Murat Gassiev – 1-0 as a heavyweight (Debut 31 October 2020)
Mairis Briedis – considering heavyweight