Oleksander Usyk made WBC cruiserweight ‘champion recess’
By Jim Dower: In a long overdue move, the WBC has changed WBC cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk to ‘champion in recess’ so that the belt will be free for the other top contenders in the WBC’s top 15 to fight for the belt.
Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) hasn’t defended the title since last November when he stopped 36-year-old Tony Bellew in the eighth round in Manchester.
Usyk out with a biceps injury
It was clear after Bellew fight was over, Usyk, 32, was moving up to heavyweight to go after a title shot against former IBF/WBA/WBO champion Anthony Joshua. Usyk is still planning on fighting at heavyweight, but he’s currently out of action due to a bicep injury he suffered while training for a canceled May 18 fight against former heavyweight world title challenger Carlos Takam.
#3 WBC Yunier Dorticos will be facing #2 WBC Andrew Tabiti in the semifinal of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament on June 15 in Riga, Latvia. It’s quite possible that the WBC will have the vacant WBC cruiserweight title on the line for the Dorticos vs. Tabiti fight on the 15th of June.
Here’s what the WBC said about Usyk being made the cruiserweight ‘champion in recess’ earlier on Tuesday:
“The WBC board of governors has unanimously voted in favor to grant the Champion in recess status to allow him to recover from his recent injury and to support him in his attempt to compete in the heavyweight division. Usyk, 2018 champion of the year, maintains his rights as world champion.”
WBO expected to install Usyk as mandatory for Ruiz Jr.
Usyk 32, is signed with Matchroom Boxing. He’s expected to be installed as the #1 mandatory with the WBO at any moment due to the fact that he holds the WBO cruiserweight title. If the WBO makes Usyk the mandatory challenger to WBO heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr., then he could get a title shot against the winner of the Ruiz vs. Anthony Joshua fight. Usyk will likely still need to wait for the IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev to get his crack at the winner of the Ruiz Jr. vs. Joshua fight first. The sanctioning bodies are taking turns in ordering the mandatory’s.
As good as Usyk was as a cruiserweight, he’s on the small side, and he’ll have a difficult time beating the Ruiz-Joshua winner. Ideally, it would be nice to see Usyk show that he deserves to fight for a world title at heavyweight before he’s given a world title shot, but that’s not likely to happen. Hearn’s decision to match Usyk up against the 38-year-old recently knocked out Carlos Takam showed clearly that he’s not going to take any chances with him before he gets a title shot.
Oleksander’s lack of size at heavyweight will limit his success
Usyk will have a lot of trouble handling the size and power of guys like Joshua, Ruiz Jr., Dillian Whyte and Tyson Fury. Since the WBO isn’t going to force Usyk to work for a title shot, he won’t need to worry about beating a good heavyweight title earn the title shot. Once Usyk’s injured bicep heals, Hearn will find someone that he can beat, and then put hi in there to keep him busy while the rematch between Ruiz Jr. and Joshua plays out. Usyk will perhaps get up to 220 pounds at some point, but he won’t be a big puncher. He’ll be a boxer/mover type of fighter, who will look to win decisions by jabbing and throwing pot shots. Usyk will likely get booed a lot in his fights, because he’s not a stationary or come forward type of heavyweight.