Hearn says Oleksander Usyk will be ready for Joshua after 2 fights
By Jim Dower: Oleksander Usyk will be ready to challenge IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) for his titles after two fights next year at heavyweight, according to Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn. Joshua will only be fighting twice next year, so the Usyk fight won’t take place until 2020 the earliest.
Hearn says Usyk will be fighting in April or May of next year to get ready for Joshua. Hearn isn’t saying whether he’ll stick Usyk on the undercard of Joshua’s April 13 card on Sky Box Office at Wembley Stadium in London, UK. Usyk might be too expensive to have on Joshua’s undercard, as he’s a main event level fighter.
It would a waste for Hearn to have Usyk on the undercard of Joshua’s next fight April 13 if he can make big money headlining his own card in April or May against a recognizable name. However, that will depend whether Hearn can find a big enough name to put in with Usyk for one of those months.
It’s no use if Hearn has Usyk headlining his own card against an over-matched fighter like David Allen or someone coming off of a loss like Dereck Chisora. Usyk needs a quality fighter to attract interest for his next fight at heavyweight. It’s pointless for Usyk to fight a domestic level heavyweight like Dave Allen or a journeyman coming off of a defeat like Chisora likely will after he faces Whyte next month on December 22 in their fight on Sky Box Office at the O2 Arena in London, England.
IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO cruiserweight unified champion Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) is coming off of an 8th round knockout win over World Boxing Council emeritus cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew (30-3-1, 20 KOs) last Saturday night on Sky Box Office at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. That fight was Usyk’s last at cruiserweight, and he now will be moving up to heavyweight to prepare for a title shot against three-belt champion Joshua, who is also promoted by Hearn.
“That’s [Joshua] the one they want,” Hearn said to skysports.com about Usyk, 31, wanting to take on Joshua at heavyweight as soon as possible. “Joshua will only fight twice next year, so it will be the one after. It won’t be the first one, because I think Usyk will want to fight at heavyweight first. There are loads of fights out there for him,” Hearn said.
Usyk’s manager Egis Klimas also says that the timeline for Oleksander to challenge Joshua for his heavyweight world titles is after two fights in the division. Klimas says Usyk will face a couple of big fighters at heavyweight before he looks to challenge Joshua for his world titles. Klimas doesn’t say who he has in mind for Usyk to face to get ready for Joshua, but it’s likely that it’ll be guys of similar height and build. That kind of limits the opponents that Usyk will be looking to face. Dillian Whyte, 6’4″, has been calling Usyk out, but he’s not as tall as the 6’6″ Joshua, and he looks and fights nothing like him.
If Hearn wants to build Usyk’s brand in the UK to help increase the revenue for a fight between him and Joshua for 2020, then he’s going to need to match him against British heavyweights and guys that the UK fans are familiar with.
These are the best options for Usyk to fight in 2019 to prepare for Joshua:
1. Dillian Whyte
2. Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller
3. Alexander Povetkin
4. Tyson Fury
5. Hughie Fury
6. Dereck Chisora
7. Joseph Parker
Most of those fighters are guys that Hearn won’t be able to make a deal with for a fight against Usyk. Tyson and Hughie Fury probably won’t agree to fight Usyk. Jarrell Miller and Dillian Whyte are both waiting in line to face Anthony Joshua, so Hearn won’t take them out of the
queue for that fight.
Hearn signed Whyte and Miller with the desire to have them face Joshua for big money fights. He’s not going to derail that idea just so that he can build up Usyk’s name for a fight against Joshua in 2020. Usyk isn’t helping himself by saying that he plans on retiring after he unifies the heavyweight division. That’s not something that you want to say out loud.
Why would Hearn want to sacrifice some of his valuable chess pieces in his Matchroom Boxing stable to face Usyk if he’s soon going to be out of the sport after he unifies the heavyweight division. Whether Usyk can unify or not isn’t important. What’s important is he’s making it clear that he’s not going to be around for too much longer. Hearn needs bodies to feed to Joshua that the boxing world cares about. Since there are so few appealing heavyweight contenders in the division for Hearn to plug in with Joshua, he’s not going to let those guys get wasted by having them face Usyk and lose to him.
“Usyk needs to move up in the right stages, and figures out what it’s like being with 17 or 18 stone guys who can punch hard,” Joshua said to skysports.com. “It’s not just based on skill, the heavyweight division, it’s based on will. How much you can take.”
It certainly helps that Usyk has been in with fighters that punch every bit as hard as heavyweights. Usyk has beaten hard hitters like Murat Gassiev, Artur Beterbiev, Mairis Briedis, Marco Huck and Tony Bellew. Those fighters all have punching power that carries up well to the heavyweight division. Usyk has also beaten Mihai Nistor and Joe Joyce. Those fighters have punching power that is similar if not better than Joshua, and Usyk beat them all. The 6’5″ Romanian Nistor even stopped Joshua in 2011. The win wasn’t a fluke thing. Nistor was bouncing big left hands off the head of Joshua from the opening round of their fight, and it was one-sided match. Joshua had no answer for the hard southpaw Nistor’s left hands that he kept hitting him with. The referee finally was forced to stop the fight in the 3rd round after Nistor staggered Joshua and had him out on his feet. Two years later, Usyk beat a better version of Nistor in the World Series of Boxing in beating him by a lopsided score.