With Oleksandr Usyk the next opponent for Anthony Joshua on 25th September, we profile the Ukrainian’s career and look at how he has got to this point.

Who is Oleksandr Usyk?

The Ukrainian-born southpaw made his professional boxing debut in 2013 and has smashed through opponents ever since. He stands at 6′ 3″ and has a reach of 78”. Usyk, the current WBO mandatory heavyweight title challenger, is a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion and boasts an impressive fight record of 18 wins with 13 of those being by way of knockout. He has boxed a total of 144 rounds in his professional career.

Usyk became the undisputed cruiserweight world champion while dominating the division and was the first boxer to hold all four major world championship titles at cruiserweight. Since moving up to the heavyweight division he’s regarded as a ‘super champion’ and was victorious in his debut fight by means of knockout against Chazz Witherspoon in October 2019 before beating Derek Chisora in October 2020.

Cruiserweight glory

Usyk made his professional boxing debut in the cruiserweight division in 2013, knocking out Mexican fighter Felipe Romero in the fifth round. The Ukrainian went on to tear the division apart before winning the WBO cruiserweight title in a unanimous decision against Krzysztof Glowacki in 2016. He then went on to beat Mairis Briedis to earn himself the WBC cruiserweight title.

Before the end of 2018, Usyk wanted to unify all four titles and a fight was announced to do just that. The southpaw travelled to Moscow to face Murat Gassiev. It was here where Usyk gave Gassiev a lesson and boxed circles around him, becoming the first cruiserweight ever to unify all four major titles in the division.

Usyk then went on to find a different challenge and wanted a fight with Tony Bellew. This was to be Bellew’s last fight before retirement and was for all four of the cruiserweight titles. The fight was Usyk’s most well-publicised to date and the world saw the Ukrainian knock Bellew out in the eighth round. After the fight Bellew threw praise on the southpaw, saying that he was “the best cruiserweight that ever lived” and warned heavyweights to stay away.

Why Usyk is set to fight Joshua

Usyk is set to fight Joshua in September due to his position as the WBO mandatory heavyweight title challenger. After Joshua’s undisputed heavyweight title bout with Tyson Fury fell through earlier this year, a fight with Usyk was swiftly arranged instead. The Ukrainian previously dominated the cruiserweight division, picking up the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO cruiserweight titles, before making the jump up to heavyweight in 2019 and, therefore, qualifies as a ‘super champion’. One of the sanctioning bodies states that if a ‘super champion’ moves up or down a weight class they are entitled to become immediate mandatory challenger.

Joshua is the favourite for the bout, being priced at 2/5 for the win, 10/11  by KO TKO or DQ and 10/3 by a decision or technical decision. Usyk, meanwhile, is 2/1 to cause an upset against Joshua on the night, while he is 7/1 to win by KO TKO or DQ and 11/4 to claim victory by a decision or technical decision.

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