By Scott Gilfoid: Eddie Hearn plans on putting together a fight between Oleksander Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) and Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) in 2020. Hearn says that the four belt cruiserweight champion Usyk, 32, will be moving up to have his first fight at heavyweight in May against possibly former WBA champion Alexander Povetkin.
It’s arguably important that Matchroom Boxing head boss Hearn make the fight between Joshua and Usyk as soon as possible to due to the high risk of the Ukrainian amateur star losing to one of the top contenders at heavyweight. It’s one thing for Usyk to take on the 39-year-old Povetkin, who is pretty much a pumped up cruiserweight, and another thing for him to take on the bigger heavyweights like Joe Joyce, Adam Kownacki and Luis Ortiz. Hearn probably would never let Usyk fight Ortiz or Joyce, because those guys are big, powerful and more than capable of beating Oleksander. Joyce gave Usyk all kinds of problems in World Series of Boxing in 2013. That was against a thinner 230 lb Joyce, and Usyk still ended up taking a lot of punishment. The pressure that Joyce put on Usyk had him worn out and bruised about the face at the end. A rematch at this point would likely end badly for Usyk. That’s why Hearn is likely in a rush to make the fight between Joshua and Usyk as fast as he can before Oleksander gets exposed at the heavyweight level.
“No. That fight comes in 2020,” Hearn said to skysports.com when asked if the Joshua vs. Usyk fight will take place in 2019. “Usyk will fight in May, probably in his heavyweight debut, potentially against Alexander Povetkin.”
The World Boxing Organization will be installing the 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk as the #1 mandatory challenger to Joshua at heavyweight. That’s expected to happen any day now. This would be a good option of Usyk actually earned the WBO mandatory ranking instead of having it given to him by the sanctioning body based on him being the WBO champion at cruiserweight. It’s a stupid rule in this writer’s opinion for the sanctioning bodies to automatically give a champion a #1 ranking in the division above them without them having to earn the ranking.
On the face of it, it seems unfair to the contenders that have worked hard to get ranked highly. To see Usyk be pushed ahead of the top contenders in the WBO’s rankings at heavyweight, it looks bad. Joshua vs. Usyk is going to be seen as ‘business fight’ if Oleksander fails to earn the fight by beating a young and dangerous contender at heavyweight first. There’s nothing wrong with Usyk beating an old lion in the heavyweight division, if it’s someone like Luis ‘King Kong’ Ortiz (30-1, 26 KOs), but not an old small lion coming off of a seventh round knockout loss like Povetkin. He was knocked out in his previous fight by Joshua last September. Why is Usyk targetting a fighter that was just knocked out? It makes little sense. Usyk vs. Povetkin is another ‘business” type of fight, and proves nothing.
“Then he’ll have one more. Then it looks like the WBO will make him mandatory for Anthony Joshua,” Hearn said. “I see that fight happening in spring 2020.”
It would be a better idea if Usyk waited at least two years before he challenges Joshua for his titles, if he’s still a champ by then. Usyk needs to show the boxing world that he rates a world title shot instead of having one given to him because he’s promoted by Hearn, who also promotes Joshua. Joshua-Usyk is going to look like an in house fight type situation rather than a match-up between a contender that worked his way to a title shot against a world champion.
If that doesn’t look like Hearn is in a mad rush to make the Joshua vs. Usyk fight then I don’t what is. I guess you can’t blame Hearn for wanting to throw Usyk in with Joshua as fast as possible, because Oleksander looked horrible during his fight with Tony Bellew last November. Yeah, Usyk won the fight in stopping Bellew in the 8th round, but he was getting nailed repeatedly by Tony in the first six rounds before ‘The Bomber’ gassed out and was halted in the eighth. The way that Usyk looked against Bellew, you can’t give him chance of beating any of the talented heavyweights. Usyk has zero punching power, and he’s just a finesse type of heavyweight.
Usyk is going to be like another Jimmy Young type of heavyweight. He’ll beat some guys by being crafty, but when he gets inside the ring with a big super heavyweight like Joshua, Deontay Wilder or Joyce, he’s going to get bludgeoned into submission. It’s unclear whether Usyk will stick around once he loses to Joshua. What does Hearn do with Usyk at that point? Does he stick him in with Dillian Whyte or does he try and get him ranked high with the World Boxing Council to have him go after Wilder? It’s doubtful that Usyk will retire after he loses to Joshua, so this writer fully expects Hearn to try and position him with the WBC to get him to go after Wilder to see him if he can unseat him as the champion. That’s a fight that would likely end badly for Usyk. By that point, Wilder will have already faced the equally crafty Fury for a second time, and beaten him. Wilder won’t be surprised by all the slick movements from Usyk, and that fight will likely be over quickly once Deontay lands with one of his right hand shots to the head. Usyk is a good fighter, but his punch resistance is no better than normal guys.
Usyk has been fighting a lot of lesser fighters at cruiserweight since he turned pro. The division is one of the worst in boxing by far. People make a deal of Usyk’s wins over Murat Gassiev, Mairis Briedis and Bellew, but those guys would be food for the average heavyweight. Moreover, if those fighters were a little longer, it’s unlikely they would be capable of holding world titles at 175. Bellew moved up to cruiserweight after failing at light heavyweight in losing to Adonis Stevenson and Nathan Cleverly. That tells you something about the cruiserweight division that Bellew was able to win a world title in that weight class, but not at 175.