Hearn lists Oleksander Usyk’s opponents at heavyweight
By Tim Royner: Cruiserweight unified champion Oleksander Usyk has a number of high level options for his career now that he’s about to move up to heavyweight division.
Usyk’s co-promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport is interested in getting him prepared for a fight against Anthony Joshua by putting him in against a number of high profile fights against guys that he mostly promotes such as Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller, Dereck Chisora and Dillian Whyte.
Hearn is also interested in matching Usyk against Carlos Takam and Alexander Povetkin. Hearn doesn’t promote those guys, but he can still negotiate fights with their management for the right amount of money.
“He’s going to want to get his foot in and feel comfortable,” Hearn said to ESPN.com. “You look at the people we work with, Dillian Whyte vs. Derek Chisora on December 22, then you have Alexander Povetkin, Joseph Parker, Carlos Takam, Jarrell Miller. My guess is to have a strong fight at heavyweight and go on to fight for the world heavyweight title.”
If the idea is just for Hearn to make Usyk the most amount of money possible for a fight against Joshua in the UK in the future, then it’s going to be important that he matches him against the heavyweight from the UK. That means that Hearn forgets about having Usyk fight Povetkin, Taker, Miller and Takam. Those are not big names in the UK. Hearn will need to have Usyk fight Chisora, Whyte and Joe Joyce. It’s a pity that there are so few good heavyweights for Usyk to fight from the UK once you eliminate Joshua from the equation.
Whyte and Chisora are flawed, and Hearn has no control over Joe Joyce, who is promoted by Ringstar. If Hearn is going to match Usyk against the winner or loser of the December 22 rematch between Chisora and Whyte, he’s likely going to need to focus on putting him against the loser of that fight. Hearn wants to use Whyte for Joshua’s next fight on April 13. Whyte can be matched against Usyk after that fight, which should make him available by August or September of 2019. In the meantime, Hearn can match Usyk against someone like Chisora (if he loses on December 22) in April or May.
That might be a bad idea for Hearn to let Usyk fight any of those guys right away in his first fight at heavyweight. Usyk, 31, was far from a dominating champion at cruiserweight. Usyk unified the division, but he didn’t do it in a way that suggests that he’ll be able to step up to heavyweight and beat the best. As a cruiserweight champion, Usyk wasn’t the phenom that Evander Holyfield was as a unified champion of the division. Usyk has always looked shaky in his fights since turning pro, and the only times he’s shined when he’s faced flawed fighters. An example of Usyk failing to shine as a cruiserweight champion was there to be seen last Saturday night when he trailed slugger Tony Bellew trough the first seven rounds, and was at risk of losing a decision.
The performance Usyk put against Bellew could be interpreted as harbinger for bad things to come for the 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine. Usyk struggled against a guy that he should have been able to dominate from start to finish. Adonis Stevenson whipped Bellew in 2013 in showing him zero respect from the opening bell in wiping him out in six rounds. Stevenson didn’t look afraid of Bellew. The way that Usyk fought against Bellew, he’s probably not going to be able to beat any of the heavyweights that Hearn has listed as potential opponents for him to face before he fights Anthony Joshua for his IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles in 2020. That doesn’t mean that Hearn can’t still match Usyk against Joshua. Look at the guys that Hearn has been matching against Joshua: Eric Molina, Alexander Povetkin and Carlos Takam. Those are all fighters that had been beaten before, and yet Hearn still matched Joshua against them. So even if Usyk loses to the likes of Chisora, Whyte, Joseph Parker, Jarrell Miller or Alexander Povetkin, it won’t be the end of the world. Hearn can still match Usyk against Joshua sooner or later. It just means that Hearn will need to have Usyk beat a couple of stiffs to have him redeem himself before he makes the fight with Joshua. After all, this is about money. Usyk has got to know that he lacks the size and power to be a factor in the heavyweight division. Moving up to heavyweight is likely a move made by Usyk to get the big money from a fight against Joshua.
“I was trying to control myself in the first rounds, to control my boxing rather than just fighting,” Usyk said via ESPN.com.
Usyk was trying his best at damage control after the fight last Saturday, explaining why he didn’t look good against a guy that he should have been able to smash if he was as good as people thought he was. A lot of casual boxing fans, who aren’t well versed on the history of the sport, thought before the fight that Usyk was the best fighter the cruiserweight division has ever seen. Those fans were in shock at how bad Usyk looked against Bellew. In light of how bad Usyk looked, the boxing fans suddenly put Bellew among the best the cruiserweight division has ever seen, even though he never proved that he was more than a belt holder at best. Those fans failed to realize that Usyk isn’t the guy that they thought he was.
Usyk is now moving up to heavyweight and is targeting the perceived best heavyweight in the world in Anthony Joshua. It doesn’t look good for Usyk. That’s why it’s doubly important that Hearn be mindful of the limitations that Usyk has as a fighter when it comes to matching him in his two fights before he puts him in against Joshua for the big money fight in 2020. It might be smarter for Hearn to do a rush job of matching Usyk against Joshua in the second half of 2019 rather than waiting until 2020 before he makes the fight. It depends on whether Hearn believes that Usyk is capable of making it through his next two fights at heavyweight to get to a fight against Joshua in one piece.
If Hearn is smart, he’ll realize that Usyk isn’t good enough to get past a rugged heavyweight like Whyte, Povetkin, Parker or Chisora. It might be wiser for Hearn to match Usyk against the likes of Dave Allen, Sam Sexton, David Price and Gary Cornish before he puts him in with Joshua. Those are all winnable fights for Usyk. He can fly through those fighters with 100 percent chances of winning two of those fights to get to the Joshua cash out fight. It won’t matter if Usyk loses to Joshua, as the money that he gets from that fight will be enough for him to retire on.
Historically, small, weak cruiserweights don’t do well when they move up to heavyweight. Usyk is under-equipped for the heavyweight diviion, and smart guys like Dillian Whyte has already spotted this flaw in his game, which is why he wants to fight him so badly. Hearn needs to take that as a hint that he should keep Usyk far away from Whyte. He can’t let Whyte ruin his grand plans of matching Usyk against Joshua for a big payday.