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Johnny Nelson: Usyk was bossing Wladimir Klitschko

Aleksandr Usyk Wladimir Klitschko

By Jim Dower: Sky Sports commentator Johnny Nelson says he saw Oleksandr Usyk give former heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko a lot of problems in helping him out with sparring in getting ready for his November 2015 fight against Tyson Fury.

Nelson says Usyk was getting the better of Wladimir, and he was told to leave after just one round of sparring. Wladimir booted Usyk out of the ring but told him not to leave while the press was still present. This was before Usyk (14-0, 11 KOs) had become a world champion at cruiserweight.

Usyk is now the WBC/WBO cruiserweight champion, and he’ll be facing IBF/WBA champion Murat Gassiev (26-0, 19 KOs) on May 11 in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Nelson believes that Usyk will beat Gassiev, and possibly stop him. Usyk barely won his last fight in beating former WBC champion Mairis Briedis by a 12 round majority decision in the semifinals of the WBSS on January 27 in Riga, Latvia.

“I rate Usyk. When I saw him sparring with Wladimir when Wladimir was preparing for Tyson Fury, I said ‘who is that guy? Who is he?’” Johnny Nelson said to BehindTheGloves about Usyk. “I had no idea, but I know there was something special about him. He did one round with Wladimir, and Wladimir slung him out and said, ‘get out, not while the press is here.’ He was making it hard for Wladimir. He was like bossing Wladimir. ‘Get him out. Get somebody else in,” Nelson said.

Usyk didn’t look so great in his fight against heavyweight Joe Joyce in the World Series of Boxing. Usyk won the fight, but he took a lot of heavy shots in the short 3-round fight. Usyk’s face looked swollen after just 3 rounds. I don’t think Usyk would do well against a prime Wladimir at all. He’s not big enough or powerful enough.

Wladimir was close to 40-years-old when he was sparring with Usyk, and he wasn’t the same fighter he’d been years ago. It’s hard to imagine Usyk bossing a prime Wladimir around the ring. Wladimir’s timing and accuracy wasn’t the same in 2015 that it had been years earlier. Wladimir lost to Tyson Fury by a 12 round unanimous decision in their fight in November 2015 in Germany. Wladimir didn’t get much help in that brief bit of sparring that he had with Usyk. It’s too bad he didn’t keep Usyk around, because he might have helped him do better against Fury.

”I think he’s the one guy that will unify the cruiserweight division,” Nelson said about Usyk. ”I think he’s the one guy that can move up to heavyweight and win a world heavyweight title, and he’s still nowhere near the finished article. He’s still learning.” Nelson said.

The heavyweight champions are so flawed right now. Usyk might have a chance of beating Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. Joshua would be difficult because he’s got a good jab, and he would try and box if he found it difficult to hit Usyk with his power shots like he did against former WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker last Saturday night in their fight that the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Joshua was missing a lot with his power shots.

Joshua’s jab was what saved him. Usyk would have to find a way to deal with Joshua’s size, reach and power advantage. Usyk would have a better chance of beating Deontay Wilder, as long as he didn’t get hit flush by any of his punches. If Wilder were to land one of his right hands to the head of Usyk with everything he has, it’s going to be over. Usyk is a good fighter, but he’s not superman. He can be hurt just like anyone.

Usyk is 31 now, and he’s going to need to do better against Gassiev than he did in his last fight against Briedis if he wants to win. The only reason Usyk won that fight is because Briedis gassed out. Briedis was doing extremely well until the last four rounds. If Gassiev can fight at a faster pace and throw more punches, he’ll give Usyk some problems. Gassiev is coming off a 12th round knockout victory over the hard-hitting former WBA World cruiserweight champion Yunier Dorticos on February 3 in Adler. Russia. That was an exciting fight, and it was a close one. Gassiev took control over the fight in the later rounds and hurt Dorticos in round 11 and then knocked him down in the 12th to get the stoppage.

Usyk will likely try and befuddle Gassiev for the entire fight. Gassiev will need to target Usyk’s midsection, because he’s not easy to hit with head shots when he’s moving around so much. He’s not easy to hit with body shots either.

”In his last fight, he was a little apprehensive, and then he realized, ‘I’m the boss here,’” Nelson said about Usyk’s recent win over Mairis Briedis. “I think it’s a point’s win if not a late stoppage for Usyk. I think Usyk is a slickster. He’s a good boxer and a good fighter,” Nelson said.

I don’t see Usyk stopping Gassiev. If Usyk tries to sit down on his shots, he’s going to leave himself vulnerable to getting hit hard from him. I think that would be a huge mistake for Usyk to try and slug with Gassiev, because this is easily the biggest puncher that he’s faced. Usyk beat Krzysztof Glowacki by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision in September 2016 to win the WBO title.

Glowacki has a big right hook that he was trying to hit Usyk with, and he did an excellent job of neutralizing that weapon. However, Glowacki is a one-handed fighter. He doesn’t punch with huge power with his left hand. It’s right hooks from him. Gassiev is more of a 2-fisted puncher with equal power in both hands.

Usyk will have a harder time trying to avoid Gassiev’s enormous power shots than he did with Glowacki. If Gassiev is able to catch Usyk with the same shots he nailed Dorticos and Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, I think he’ll knock him out. Usyk can’t take those kinds of shots for long without hitting the deck the way those guys did, because his chin is no better than those guys. Usyk is just a better mover.

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