WBA orders Usyk vs. Lebedev
By Jim Dower: in what could prove to be a pointless endeavor, the WBA has ordered IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksander Usyk to make a defense against his World Boxing Association mandatory challenger Denis Lebedev. There’s a purse bid scheduled for March 28 in Panama City. The split for the Usyk-Lebedev fight, if it takes place, would be 75/25 in favor of the 32-year-old Usyk. It would be a fun fight to watch it it takes place, but it probably won’t.
The chances of the 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) taking the fight with former IBF/WBA cruiserweight champion Lebedev are slim and none. Usyk plans on moving up to heavyweight to campaign at in that weight class, and he’ll be immediately given a #1 ranking by the World Boxing Organization in that division based on him holding their WBO cruiserweight belt.
If/when Usyk vacates his WBA title, Lebedev’s promoter Vlad Hrunov reportedly will be looking to put together a rematch between the 39-year-old Lebedev and former IBF/WBA champion Murat Gassiev to fight for the vacant WBA cruiserweight title. Gassiev defeated Lebedev by a 12 round split decision in December 2016. Gassiev dominated the fight with his punching power to the head and body. Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs) was beaten last July by Usyk by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision in the World Boxing Super Series tournament.
assiev, 25, hasn’t fought since then. Lebedev vs. Gassiev II will attract a lot of attention from boxing fans in Russia, and it could make for an interesting fight. Lebedev now has the blueprint to study in how to beat Gassiev, and he he needs to do is to make sure he throws nonstop jabs and weaker shots to outwork him and keep him busy. However, it’s believed that Gassiev will soon be moving up to heavyweight like Usyk, so it’s unclear whether he’ll bother fighting Lebedev for the WBA cruiserweight belt once Usyk vacates it or is stripped of the title.
There’s no word when Usyk will make his move up to heavyweight to start fighting in that weight class. He was supposed to be moving soon, but thus far nothing is being said about it. You have to wonder whether he’s having second thoughts about moving up to the division.
If Gassiev chooses to move up to heavyweight, then the chances of Lebedev winning back his old WBA belt are high. The #1 ranked WBA contender Yuniel Dorticos will be fighting #2 Andrew Tabiti in his next fight in the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament, so he’s not an option for Lebedev to fight, which is a good thing for him. Dorticos is dangerous, and has a lot of talent. At this point, it’s unknown who Lebedev will be fighting for the WBA belt, but it’s not likely to be Usyk.