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Andy Ruiz: Oleksandr Usyk didn’t look good in heavyweight debut

Aleksandr Usyk Anthony Joshua Chazz Witherspoon

By Charles Brun: Andy Ruiz Jr. wasn’t impressed with the performance by former unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) in his recent heavyweight debut against passed his prime 38-year-old Chazz Witherspoon on October 12 in Chicago, Illinois. Ruiz admits that the 32-year-old Usyk is a good fighter, but he doesn’t appear to have carried his power up to the heavyweight division.

“He’s a great fighter. I didn’t think he looked too good for his first fight [at heavyweight], but he’s a great boxer” said Ruiz via Michael Benson. “I didn’t think he carried his power too much… After we win Dec 7th, of course we’ll give him the opportunity.”

Joshua vs. Ruiz 2 winner must face Usyk next

Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs) could soon be facing Usyk, as he’s his World Boxing Organization mandatory challenger. The WBO gave Usyk the mandatory spot at heavyweight based on what he accomplished at cruiserweight in being the Super Champion in winning all 4 belts.

The winner of Ruiz’s rematch with Anthony Joshua on December 7 will need to defend against Usyk in their next fight, according to Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn. Usyk doesn’t want to take another warm-up fight at heavyweight. He wants the winner of the Joshua-Ruiz 2 rematch straightaway in 2020. However, Joshua or Ruiz can always vacate the WBO title if they wish, and leave Usyk with no immediate avenue to fight the winner.

The whole problem with fighting Usyk is he’s done zero to build his name in the U.S to make a fight between him and Joshua or Ruiz into a big affair. So it really does very little for the Joshua-Ruiz winner to face him. They can make more money fighting WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder or lineal champion Tyson Fury.

Usyk didn’t look great against Witherspoon

Most boxing fans noticed that Usyk looked less than powerful against Witherspoon (38-4, 29 KOs), and was forced to win the fight by using a high volume attack to stop him in the 7th. That approach to winning fights at the heavyweight level is risky, and it’s one that involves taking a lot of punches.

Usyk can get away with fighting like that against the weaker punchers like Witherspoon. But for Usyk to try and beat the powerful heavyweights with that style, he’s going to take a lot of HARD head shots that could lead to him being knocked out or cut to pieces.

Although Usyk is often compared to Evander Holyfield, his fighting style is more closely related to these finesse level heavyweights of the past:

  • Chris Byrd
  • Eddie Chambers
  • Jimmy Young
  • Monte Barrett

Those were all good heavyweights, but they were guys that lacked power and size. They were forced to use finesse to win fights, and unfortunately they struggled when facing super heavyweights. Occasionally, they would pull off upsets against the bigger guys, but ultimately their careers were limited.

Holyfield came into the heavyweight division equipped with enough power to knockout most of the top guys, but he couldn’t dent the chins of the big guys like George Foreman, Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe.

Usyk is in the same boat as them. He’s a fish out of water in fighting at heavyweight. He belongs at cruiserweight, and that’s going to be highlighted when he eventually fights for a world title against Joshua, Ruiz or whoever.

Fighting Joshua-Ruiz Jr. winner will give Usyk a big payday

The money that Usyk will receive for fighting the winner of the Joshua vs. Ruiz 2 rematch will be huge, and enough to retire on. It doesn’t matter if Usyk is too small to beat either of those fighters, the payday that he’ll get will make it worthwhile.

It would be nice if Usyk actually fought his way into a world title shot at heavyweight by beating the likes of Dillian Whyte, Adam Kownacki, Tyson Fury, Alexander Povetkin and Joe Joyce. The WBO’s decision to make Usyk the mandatory challenger to WBO heavyweight champion Ruiz Jr. makes it unnecessary for Usyk to fight those types of heavyweights. So instead of fighting them, Usyk fought a guy 10 years passed his prime in 38-year-old Witherspoon. Usyk has no interest in fighting anyone else to get ready for his WBO mandated title shot.

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