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Oleksandr Usyk defends against Thabiso Mchunu on Dec.17


By Dan Ambrose: WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (10-0, 9 KOs) will be making his first defense of his title next month against the crafty #9 WBC, #14 WBO Thabiso Mchunu (17-2, 11 KOs) on the undercard of the Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Smith Jr. card on HBO Championship Boxing from the Forum in Inglewood, California.

This is a good chance for Usyk to start making a name for himself in the U.S. Former WBO champion Marco Huck was given an opportunity to make a name for himself in the U.S, but he was stopped by Krzysztof Glowacki in the 11th round last year.

Usyk is going to need to go after Mchunu if he wants to impress in this fight, because the South African fighter is very tricky. He can make things difficult for his opponents. This isn’t the ideal opponent for Usyk to be facing for him to win over the U.S fans. It would be big news if Usyk could score a knockout over Mchunu. He’s hard to hit, and he likes to throw a lot of counter shots.

If Usyk could pick up fans in the U.S the way that middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin has been able to in the last four years, he could become a star. Usyk might need to focus more on his power game though, because the American boxing fans like to see KOs. Usyk has the punching power in his left hand to be a knockout puncher like Golovkin. He just needs to change his focus to become more of a slugger instead of a boxer.

Usyk, 29, recently beat World Boxing Organization cruiserweight champion Krzysztof Glowacki (26-1, 16 KOs0 by a 12 round unanimous decision last September. It was a great performance from Usyk in beating arguably the best fighter in the cruiserweight division at the time. Usyk did a great job of out-boxing the southpaw Glowacki to get the win. Usyk had to be extra careful the entire time to avoid the huge power shots from Glowacki, because he was loading up with everything he threw in the fight.

Mchunu, 28, was stopped in the 11th round last year by the hard hitting Ilunga Makabu in May 2015. Mchunu was ahead in the fight at the time of the stoppage. Makabu did a good job of attacking the 5’11” Mchunu in the 11th to get the knockout. Before that loss, Mchunu had won his previous six fights with wins over former heavyweight world title challenger Eddie Chambers and highly rated Olanewaju Durodola. Those were good wins for Mchunu. However, Mchunu was also knocked out by the unheralded Zack Mcwekassa (15-4, 14 KOs) in the 6th round in 2011. This is the same Mwekassa that was stopped by Jozef Nagy, Danie Venter and Dmitry Kudryashov.

“This is a great opportunity, I’m very excited to fight for the first time in the United States and on HBO,” said Usyk. “After winning the world title in September, fighting in America was the next goal and I promise the fans in Los Angeles and those watching on HBO a great performance,” said Usyk, known for his world class performances, heavy hands and his memorable victory dances.

The Usyk vs. Mchunu fight could turn out to be more exciting than the main event between 52-year-old Bernard Hopkins and Smith Jr. The Usyk-Mchunu fight won’t be the co-feature bout on the card, however. It will take a back seat to the fight between 2012 U.S Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr. (22-0, 13 KOs) and Horacio Garcia (30-1-1, 22 KOs) in their 10 round bout in the co-feature bout. The 23-year-old Diaz Jr. is an undefeated featherweight contender, and thought to be a future world champion. Diaz Jr. was beaten in the 2012 Olympics in his second match by Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba by a 21-15 score. In Diaz Jr’s first fight of the 2012 Olympics, he defeated Pavlo Ischenko by a 19-9 score. In contrast, Usyk captured a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics for Ukraine in beating Artur Beterbiev, Tervel Pulev and Clemente Russo. Usyk was quite impressive in winning the gold medal. He would likely be in the co-feature bout on the Hopkins-Smith Jr. card if he had medaled for the U.S instead of Ukraine.

There’s a difference. Usyk is seen as someone who will possibly unify all the titles someday in the cruiserweight division. Diaz Jr. is seen as a future world champion at featherweight, but he’s not a guy that has the kind of talent to unify all the belts in the featherweight division. Diaz’s problem is there are some very good fighters in the featherweight division right now such as Oscar Valdez, Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz, Jesus Cuellar, Abner Mares, Lee Selby and Gary Russell Jr.

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