Oleksandr Usyk announces himself to the heavyweight division on Saturday night against Chazz Witherspoon, while Josh Warrington will be making the third defence of his IBF world featherweight title against Sofiane Takoucht. We preview this weekend’s boxing.

Usyk out to prove he’s the real deal

Oleksandr Usyk is going to be a problem for the heavyweight division and his opportunity to put the big guns on red alert finally arrives on Saturday night.

Usyk makes his bow in Chicago with an unblemished cruiserweight record, having been crowned undisputed champion in just 15 professional bouts and, unlike many of his new major heavyweight rivals, he has it all.

Like any southpaw, the Ukrainian is tricky to figure out, but when you add in his Vasyl Lomachenko-honed footwork and fast hands, he’s as close to unbeatable as you get at cruiserweight level.

The only question that needs to be answered before the big names come calling is, can he make the step up? After all, only two men have held world titles in boxing’s two heaviest divisions – Evander Holyfield and David Haye.

Usyk’s opponent on Saturday, Chazz Witherspoon, who has stepped in at the last minute to replace Tyrone Spong after he returned an adverse doping test, is no slouch either and will be in no mood to let the Ukrainian trample over him on his way to the top.

The 38-year-old American is a veteran of 41 professional bouts, with just three blemishes on his record. He’s never quite made it to world title level, losing a 2012 WBO title fight to Seth Mitchell, but has not lost a fight since.

The difference in pedigree, combined with Witherspoon taking the fight on short notice, means that a victory for the American would prove to be one of the surprise results of the decade – and it is available at 12/1.

Usyk is the overwhelming favourite for this one at 1/50 and should prove at least a level above Witherspoon.

Warrington on the road to unification

Meanwhile on Saturday in Leeds, Josh Warrington will be making the third defence of his IBF world featherweight title against Sofiane Takoucht.

Despite Warrington’s breakout 2018, his previous calls for a featherweight unification fight against Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russell Jr or Oscar Valdez have fallen on deaf ears.

His attention for the time being, therefore, is currently focused on bettering the relatively unknown Takoucht, who comes into the bout on an eight-fight winning streak stretching back to 2014.

Warrington’s stellar 2018 saw him overcome Lee Selby and the much-fancied Carl Frampton to place himself at the top of British boxing. A win in this one on Saturday will make his unification claims all the more convincing.

At 28, and unbeaten in his 29 fights, Warrington is coming up to prime fighting age. He has all the skills needed to be one of the best of his generation and is only a few strong performances away from being catapulted into the global spotlight he craves.

Warrington’s career knockout rate is just over 20%, with each of his last three bouts being decided on the cards, so don’t be surprised if this one goes the distance too.

Warrington is the big favourite at 1/50 to win in 12 rounds, with Takoucht 12/1 to pick up a surprise win.

Check out all the latest boxing betting odds at William Hill