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Oleksandr Usyk vs. Tyrone Spong official for October 12 on DAZN

Aleksandr Usyk

By Matt Lieberman: Matchroom USA fighter Oleksandr Usyk will be fighting next month in his heavyweight debut on DAZN against boxing novice Tyrone Spong (14-0, 13 KOs) on October 12 at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. Usyk’s promoter Eddie Hearn is excited about this fight, but it’s a strange match-up without question.

The former cruiserweight king Usyk is facing a fighter with no background in boxing, and a dreadfully poor pro resume. Hearn could have matched Usyk up with a far better heavyweight than Spong, but he’s chosen to give him an easy one for his debut in this weight class.

It took a while to find an opponent for Usyk, but they’ve finally got a top 15 contender in 33-year-old Spong.

Unfortunately, many of the casual and hardcore boxing fans have never heard of Spong, and they’re too excited about this match-up. Spong is ranked with the WBO, but he’s done nothing to rate that high ranking. This is the same sanctioning body that recently ranked little known fighter Tom Schwarz at #2 at heavyweight,  who looked over-matched in a loss to Fury.

Usyk gets a chance to show whether he’s got the talent to become the next big thing at heavyweight.

Oleksandr Usyk with similar style as Tyson Fury

Usyk previously unified the cruiserweight division, but he wasn’t known for his punching power. Moreover, his opposition in that division left a lot to be desired. The southpaw Usyk unified the cruiserweight division, but never faced anyone of major talent. In moving up in weight to heavyweight, there are a lot of questions being asked of the 6’3″ Usyk about whether he can exist at this level. Usyk’s fighting style is a blend of the following following fighters: Hughie Fury, Tyson Fury and Vasiliy Lomachenko.

Usyk fights like a pure mixture of those three finesse fighters, and it’s unclear whether he’s going to be able to make his mark in the heavyweight division. In Usyk’s fight against 2016 Olympic super heavyweight silver medalist Joe Joyce, he took a lot of punishment, and didn’t look impressive in beating in the WSB competition. Joyce was wearing Usyk down with his size, and pressure. The way that fight looked, Usyk would have been knocked out by Joyce in a 12 round fight. Usyk lacks the pop in his shots, and he’s too small for heavyweight. He has similar size as Alexander Povetkin, but without his punching power.  Usyk’s power is at the same level as Tyson and Hughie Fury. In other words, Usyk is not a puncher.

The far more experienced former world title challenger Carlos Takam is the guy Matchroom wanted for Usyk, but they couldn’t sign him. Usyk vs. Spong will be streamed on DAZN in the U.S, and shown on Sky Sports in the UK.

The former unified cruiserweight champion Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) has to settle for former kick-boxer Spong to fight at heavyweight, and hope he looks good.

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Oleksander Usyk taking a tune-up before challenging Joshua-Ruiz winner

Usyk was never going to be fighting a real test in his first fight at heavyweight. This is more about letting Usyk get his feet wet a little in a new weight class, and then match him against the Andy Ruiz Jr. vs. Anthony Joshua winner. This is more about putting Usyk in a fight where he looked great before he faces the winner of the Joshua-Ruiz rematch. Usyk is the World Boxing Organization mandatory challenger for WBO champion Ruiz Jr. (33-1, 22 KOs).

The WBO gave Usyk a #1 ranking at heavyweight because he held their WBO cruiserweight title. It’s one of the WBO’s rules where they allow their champions to elevated to mandatory challengers when they decide to move up in weight. It’s a crazy rule though, because it means that the fighter doesn’t have to earn a world title shot like normal fighters. They’re simply given the title shot based on their past credentials.

Usyk vs. Spong viewed as mismatch

In terms of competitiveness, this is a mismatch on paper. Usyk is a 2012 Olympic gold medalist with over 300 amateur fights going against a novice. For his part, Spong is a kick-boxer with no amateur background, and just 13 fights at the pro level against mediocre opposition. Given that Usyk is expected to fight the winner of the Joshua-Ruiz winner, Matchroom should have done better in selecting an opponent for him.

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It would have been better for Matchroom to have selected one of their own heavyweights from their stable to put in with Usyk instead of Spong. Matchoom promotes Michael Hunter, Joseph Parker, Filip Hrgovic and Dillian Whyte. Any of those guys would have been infinitely better opponents for Usyk to fight than the inexperienced Spong.

Usyk, 32, unified the cruiserweight division in 2018 in winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament. In his best career wins, Usyk has beaten the following cruiserweights:

  • Murat Gassiev
  • Michael Hunter
  • Tony Bellew
  • Mairis Briedis
  • Krzysztof Glowacki
  • Thabiso Mchunu
  • Marco Huck

In Usyk’s last fight, he defeated Tony Bellew by an 8th round knockout last November. After the win, Usyk made it known that he was moving up to heavyweight to challenge for the world titles. He initially targeted IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, but after he was stopped by Andy Ruiz Jr. in an upset loss on June 1. Usyk is now looking to face the winner of their December 7 rematch between Joshua and Ruiz. The WBO will be ordering the winner of that fight to face Usyk. Whether they choose to defend against the crafty Usyk is unknown.

Hearn says Oleksandr Usyk’s heavyweight debut highly anticipated

“Usyk’s heavyweight debut is one of the most hotly anticipated boxing moments of 2019. Personally, I can’t wait to see it,” Hearn said. “Oleksandr is a phenomenon who dominated the cruiserweight division becoming undisputed champion after just 15 fights. Now, as he prepares to challenge for the world heavyweight title, he must first overcome Tyrone Spong in Chicago. Spong will be explosive and dangerous and we expect an electric heavyweight battle.”

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