Oleksandr Usyk moving to heavyweight, will fight in May
By Scott Gilfoid: Oleksander Usyk is heading for the heavyweight division for his next fight in May, according to Alex Krassyuk of K2 Promotions. Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) will be fighting on May 18 or 24 in the U.S against an opponent still to be determined.
Usyk will be seen by American boxing fans on DAZN, as well as in the UK on Sky Sports.
The 32-year-old Usyk is co-promoted by K2 and Matchroom Sport. Usyk doesn’t want to start slowly. He wants to face the best possible opponent for his fight in May. Whether his promoters at Matchroom and K2 can get Usyk a big name is another question. Usyk’s style of fighting might make it difficult to get any of the top heavyweights to face him without Matchroom Boxing or K2 offering his opponent good money.
“Usyk’s next fight will likely be at heavyweight,” Krassyuk said to VideoBoxing. “Most likely, it will be held in the United States. With high probability, it will take place on May 18 or 25.”
The move up to heavyweight will result in Usyk being given a #1 ranking with the World Boxing Organization and made the immediate mandatory for WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. As the WBO cruiserweight champion, it allows Usyk to be installed at #1 with the WBO at heavyweight without needing to beat anyone. Usyk does intend on facing a good heavyweight in his first fight in May. He won’t be just given a fight against Joshua straightaway like some boxing fans think.
Usyk recently unified the cruiserweight division in 2018 in beating Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev in the World Boxing Super Series tournament to capture the all four of the titles in that weight class. Usyk came into the WBSS tournament holding the WBO belt. He then won the WBC title from Briedis, and captured the IBF/WBA titles from Gassiev.
Last November, Usyk defeated former WBC cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew by a 8th round knockout in Manchester, England. The fight was fun to watch, as Usyk slowly increased the pressure on the cocky-looking Bellew until he finally knocked him out in round eight. It almost seemed like Usyk was intentionally fighting in first gear in the first seven rounds in order to make the fight competitive. At the seventh, Bellew glared at Usyk after hitting him with a shot. At that moment, Usyk looked irritated, and really to get Bellew out of there, which he promptly did in the eighth. Bellew woke a sleeping giant with his taunting of him. It have been better for Bellew to have fought in a more low key manner. Usyk gained a lot of boxing fans in the UK, U.S and elsewhere from his victory over Bellew.
“He wants to fight in heavyweight, and wants to fight immediately with outstanding heavyweights,” Krassyuk said. “He does not want to go up and fight with just anyone. Usyk wants to demonstrate his level and win the crown in the heavyweight title.”
The ultimate target for Usyk is IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs), who is promoted by same co-promoter as him with Matchroom. Putting a fight together between Usyk and Joshua won’t be a problem when the time comes. Once the WBO orders the Joshua vs. Usyk fight, the wheels will be set in motion to make the fight happen. Usyk isn’t likely going to tell the WBO that he’s not interested in fighting Joshua for lack of experience. Usyk is a 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, and he’s got loads of amateur experience that he can use to help him when the time comes for him to face him.
Usyk can make a lot of money in facing Joshua. Even if Usyk loses the fight, he’ll make massive money. A victory for Usyk over the 6’6″ behemoth will result in a rematch, which is where he’ll make the big money. Usyk won’t make the big money until the second fight Joshua, if there is one, as he would be in position to make the fight as the IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion. There’s a very good chance that Usyk beats Joshua just based on his talent. Wladimir Klitschko almost beat Joshua, and he was 41 and coming off of a 2 year layoff. Wladimir eased off after he had Joshua hurt and gassed out in the sixth round. Usyk isn’t that kind of fighter. He won’t ease up on Joshua once he has him teetering on the brink of defeat. Usyk won’t need his trainer to tell him what to do if he gets Joshua hurt.
It’s possible that Usyk could wind up facing the likes of Michael Hunter for his first fight at heavyweight. 2012 U.S Olympian Hunter has been rumored to be the opponent for Usyk’s first fight. Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing has the money to get Usyk a very good opponent for his fight in May. Dillian Whyte has talked about wanting to fight Usyk. However, Whyte likely wouldn’t take the fight with him, because he’s looking to get a title shot against Joshua. Usyk would be a risky fight for Whyte.