Lennox Lewis calls Oleksandr Usyk a “question mark”
By Chris Williams: Former heavyweight world champion Lennox Lewis doesn’t know what to make of Oleksandr Usyk following his successful move up to heavyweight against Chazz Witherspoon last Saturday night on DAZN in Chicago, Illinois.
While Lewis admits that he’s pleased that the unbeaten former unified cruiserweight champion Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) is moving up to heavyweight, he says he’s still a “question mark” at this point. Lewis says he needed a better test than 38-year-old Witherspoon to help indicate whether he’s got the talent to thrive at the heavyweight level.
Lewis did well during his career against heavyweights the size of Usyk. The most similar fighter to Usyk on Lewis’ resume is Frans Botha, and he destroyed him in two rounds. It’s got to be difficult for Lewis to watch small, light-hitting heavyweights like Usyk and take him seriously as a threat to the top tier fighters.
Witherspoon is a fighter that isn’t among the top tier heavyweight. He was a replacement opponent brought in to fill the vacancy left by Tyrone Spong after he tested positive for a banned substance.
Lewis questions whether Usyk has the size for heavyweight division
When the 6’5″ Lewis was asked if Usyk has the size to fight at the heavyweight level, he said this on his social media site:
“That’s one of the questions that remain to be answered. Becoming one of the champions is still quite different than cleaning up the division.”
The 6’3″ Usyk weighed in at 215 pounds for his heavyweight debut against Witherspoon, and that’s too light for him to compete with the larger fighters in the division. Usyk’s height is comparable to the likes of Luis Ortiz, Alexander Povetkin, Dillian Whyte and Andy Ruiz Jr., but he’s considerably lighter and weaker in terms of punching power than all of those guys.
Usyk still just a finesse fighter
What we saw from Usyk last Saturday was the same thing we had observed from him in the past when he fought at cruiserweight. Usyk wins his fights by out-boxing his opponents rather than knocking them out. Witherspoon likely would have gone the full 12 round distance with Usyk if he’d been in shape and 10 years younger. At 38, out of condition, and not having had a full training camp to prepare, Witherspoon had no chance at winning.
Former cruiserweights Evander Holyfield and David Haye met with limited success after moving up to heavyweight during their respective careers. However, when they met up with the talented larger heavyweights, they lost. Usyk might do well against the averaged size heavyweights with limited conditioning, but the giant guys like Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Filip Hrgovic might have too much size for him. Andy Ruiz Jr., Povetkin, Oscar Rivas Adam Kownacki, Dillian Whyte and Kubrat Pulev would also be very hard fights for Usyk.
Larger heavyweights will give Usyk problems
Without punching power, Usyk would need to out-box those guys, and it might not be easy for him to do. Joe Joyce would be a problem for Usyk as well. Their fight in the World Series of Boxing six years was very competitive, and that was just a three-round fight.
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk’s face was badly marked up after 3 rounds, and that was when Joyce weighed on 230 pounds. At 260+ lbs, Joyce is a bigger puncher now, and he’s someone that would likely wear Usyk down at this point, and force a stoppage.
Hearn moving Usyk straight into a world title shot
Usyk’s promoter Eddie Hearn says there won’t be anymore tune-ups for him at heavyweight. Hearn has the 32-year-old Usyk pegged to fight the winner of the December 7th fight between IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua.
The speed with which Hearn is putting Usyk into a world title fight at heavyweight indicates that he could be making this move to prevent the boxing public in seeing him exposed by other heavyweights. It stands to reason if you have a flawed fighter, you want to put them into a world title fight as fast as possible before the fans realize that he’s not the golden guy that you made him out to be. In other words, he’s fools gold.
The heavyweight division has a new question mark with the entrance of @usykaa I don’t think Witherspoon was the real test he needed, but he’s dipped his toe into the heavyweight waters and found that it’s not too hot! Looking forward to seeing more. #UsykWitherspoon
— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) October 13, 2019