By News Team
Last Updated: 24th January 2020
With Oleksandr Usyk a potential future opponent for Anthony Joshua later this year, we profile the Ukrainian’s career and look at how he has got to this point.
Is Usyk set to fight Joshua?
Usyk is the WBO’s mandatory challenger to fight Joshua in his next bout, however, the IBF mandatory challenger, Kubrat Pulev, looks to be leading the race to be the Briton’s next opponent. Usyk, therefore, must decide whether to wait for his opportunity to fight Joshua or to risk it by fighting somebody else first.
Dillian Whyte was the WBO’s number one contender for quite some time but Usyk has been pushed to the top due to his ‘super champion’ status. The Ukrainian previously dominated the cruiserweight division, picking up the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO cruiserweight titles.
He was the undisputed champion of the cruiserweight division before making the jump up to heavyweight last year 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.
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 17 wins with 13 of those being by way of knockout. He has boxed a total of 132 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.
Usyk’s Olympic past
Usyk, similarly to Joshua, boxed at the Olympics prior to his professional run. He won gold at London 2012 when he beat Italian Clemente Russo to become the third Olympic boxing gold medallist in Ukrainian history. The fight took place in the heavyweight division and now Usyk is looking to dominate the professional heavyweight scene.
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 tile.
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 round 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.
Joshua has welcomed a fight against the Ukrainian so a bout between the two looks to be on the cards at some point soon. It will be interesting to see just how good Usyk can be, especially since moving up to the heavyweight division. Usyk would currently go into the potential fight priced at 6/4, with Joshua the 1/2 favourite, if it happens before the end of 2020, so he isn’t considered to be too much of an underdog.