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Oleksandr Usyk could face Povetkin or Luis Ortiz next

Image: Oleksandr Usyk could face Povetkin or Luis Ortiz next

By Mike Smith: Oleksander Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk reportedly says there’s a seventy percent chance of Oleksander, 31, moving up to heavyweight to face either Luis ‘King Kong’ Ortiz (30-1, 26 KOs) or Alexander Povetkin in what would be his first fight in the division as a pro, according to Fightnews info via Michael Benson. Joseph Parker and Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller opted not to take the fight with the unbeaten Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs), which isn’t all that surprising.

Povetkin vs. Usyk would be an interesting match-up between Olympic gold medal winners from Russian and Ukraine. Povetkin is a small heavyweight, and it would be a fight that would be more winnable for Usyk than if he were to step inside the ring with a huge contender like Jarrell Miller or Dillian Whyte. Povetkin has the kind of power on short compact shots that would give Usyk problems. He would be able to get out of the way of some of Povetkin’s punches, but not all of them. Ortiz’s southpaw style and his punching power would be problematic for Usyk. It doesn’t matter that Usyk is also a southpaw. He’s still not used to fighting other southpaws, as he mostly fights right-handers. Ortiz right now is the more dangerous fighter compared to Povetkin for a weak finesse fighter like Usyk.

Ortiz and Povetkin are both 39-years-old. Ortiz turns 40 in March. Ortiz didn’t look good in stopping Travis Kauffman in the 10th round last December. Although Ortiz knocked Kauffman down three times in the fight before stopping him in the tenth, he looked slow and one-paced through most of the fight. For Ortiz to beat Usyk, he’ll need to show more of a sense of urgency that we he showed against Kauffman. Ortiz’s punching power makes him a big threat to beating Usyk though. Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has shown no desire to let Ortiz fight his franchise fighter Anthony Joshua. It’s hard to imagine Hearn giving the green light to letting Usyk, who he co-promotes, fight Ortiz. Unless Hearn thinks that Ortiz has lost enough from his game to make him harmless to Usyk, that fight likely has no chance of happening.

Miller, 30, is being lined up by his co-promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing USA to face IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) in 2019, possibly in April or May. Miller isn’t about to put that big money fight at risk by facing a crafty boxer like Usyk. Whatever money that fight would make Miller, it likely wouldn’t begin to match the kind of money he can make facing Joshua. Parker (25-2, 19 KOs) has lost two out of his last three fights, and he can’t afford to take a risky non-title fight either unless it’s going to pay him the same kind of money he’d get fighting Joshua in a rematch. Obviously, Parker wouldn’t get the kind of payday he got in his fight with Joshua if he were to face Usyk.

Ortiz (30-1, 26 KOs) would be a good test for Usyk if he were willing to fight him. Both guys are southpaws, so Usyk wouldn’t have that advantage like he normally does in his fights. Ortiz is pretty advanced heavyweight for Usyk to be mixing it up with in his first fight in the weight class. Usyk didn’t look very good in his last fight against Tony Bellew last November in Manchester, England. Although Usyk won the fight by an 8th round knockout, he looked human in that fight, and very vulnerable.

Bellew, 35, exposed Usyk, showing that he’s not the fighter that many boxing fans had thought he was going in. Fans were saying that Usyk was the best cruiserweight ever, better than Evander Holyfield. What we saw instead was a confused and timid looking Usyk struggle for seven rounds until finally scoring a stoppage over a tired looking Bellew in round eight. If not for Bellew gassing out in round 8, who knows what would have happened with Usyk. That fight showed more than anything that Usyk needs to stay at cruiserweight, because he’s too small and weak for the heavyweight division.

If Usyk moves up to heavyweight, he would be too small to compete with the likes of Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Those are the big three in the heavyweight division. If Ortiz says yes to a fight with Usyk, it could end badly for the 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine. All it takes it one big shot from the southpaw Ortiz to hurt a fighter like Usyk. Once Ortiz has his opponents hurt, he’s a very good finisher. For Usyk’s promoters to get Ortiz to agree to fight him, it’ll likely take a lot of money. Ortiz is ranked #2 with the World Boxing Council right now behind #1 WBC Dillian Whyte, and he could soon be getting another world title shot against WBC champion Deontay Wilder. There’s good money for Ortiz to make fighting Wilder a second time for his world title. Ortiz came close to beating Wilder last year in March. He had Wilder out on his feet in round seven after catching him with a big left hand shot to the head.

Povetkin (34-2, 24 KOs) vs. Usyk would be a big fight in Russia due to the popularity of the two fighters in that part of the world. Povetkin is about to turn 40 in September, and he needs well known opponents for him to make the most of what little time he has left in his career. Povetkin was stopped in the seventh round by Joshua last year on September 22 at Wembley Stadium in London, England. Povetkin, #7 WBC, #8 WBA, needs to add a big name like Usyk to his collection for him to get ranked higher with those two sanctioning bodies so he can get another fight against Joshua.

Usyk and Krassyuk will be meeting with British promoter Eddie Hearn next week. During that meeting, they’ll be talking about Usyk possibly staying at cruiserweight to make a title defense against WBA ‘champion in recess’ Denis Lebedev (32-2, 23 KOs). That fan interest in that fight would be huge in Russia or Ukraine, but perhaps not elsewhere. Even if Usyk does stay at cruiserweight to face Lebedev, it’s unlikely that he’ll stay at that weight unless Hearn and/or Krassyuk can get him a fight against a popular guy like Andre Ward, who is currently retired from boxing. Ward has made it clear that he’d be willing to come out of retirement for the right opportunity. It would take a lot of money from Usyk’s management to get Ward to return to the ring to face him in a big fight at cruiserweight.

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