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Usyk not worried about his lack of power

Aleksandr Usyk Chazz Witherspoon

By Jeff Aronow: Oleksandr Usyk looked less than powerful in dispatching an over-matched Chazz Witherspoon in the 7th round in his heavyweight debut last Saturday night. It’s not that the former unified cruiserweight champion Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) wasn’t trying to hit Witherspoon with everything he had. Usyk started slow like he usually does, and then sped up the pace with his accurate punching to force a stoppage.

The power wasn’t improved from Usyk’s time as a cruiserweight, but it didn’t matter. With the low level opponent that Usyk was facing, it didn’t require huge power for him to win.

The problem was he didn’t have enough size and natural strength to dispatch the 38-year-old Witherspoon (38-4, 29 KOs) the way that most heavyweights would have done. It took Usyk seven rounds to finally get Witherspoon out at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois.

Usyk says he’ll focus on punch placement to improve power

“I think I need to land my punches more properly and precisely to make them heavy punches,” said Usyk in responding to a question at the post-fight news conference about how he can develop his power more. “If you have any doubts, you can call a couple of my opponents, and say, ‘Can I hit them or not?’ I hit a lot, and I’m going to be hitting a lot.”

There was nothing wrong with Usyk’s placement of punches against Witherspoon last Saturday night. Usyk was landing his shots cleanly, but he didn’t have enough power on his shots to bother the bigger man. It would be a mistake on Usyk’s part to assume that he’s suddenly going to become a puncher. He wasn’t a big puncher in the amateur ranks in Ukraine.

It didn’t keep Usyk from winning an Olympic gold medal in 2012, but that wasn’t at super heavyweight. Back then, Usyk fought at heavyweight. Now that Usyk has moved up from cruiserweight to heavyweight, he’s going to have to figure out how he’s going to be able to deal with the size and power of the bigger fighters. Right now, Usyk looks like a weaker version of Alexander Povetkin.

Usyk says he must defend better when he faces Joshua, Ruiz or Wilder

“I think it was a good performance by me, but what was most important was I did everything that I was told by my corner,” said Usyk at the post-fight news conference last Saturday. “I cannot rate myself, because that would be very impolite. I think I would need to defend myself better, and not let punches come in to me,” said Usyk in how he would deal with the bigger punchers Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr.

Without question, Usyk, 32, will need to iron out his leaky defense before he starts fighting the elite heavyweights like Deontay Wilder, Joshua and Ruiz. Right now it’s looking like Usyk’s stay at heavyweight will be a short one. He’ll get his big payday against the Joshua vs. Ruiz 2 fight, and likely lose.

Usyk might need to consider dropping back down to cruiserweight if he loses more than one fight at heavyweight. He’s clearly not big or strong enough to fight at heavyweight. What we saw from Usyk against a past his prime Chazz last night is a fighter that isn’t strong enough for the division.

Hearn will select Usyk’s next opponent

“It’s not a question for me, but it’s more of a question to Eddie [Hearn] in who he can bring to me,” said Usyk when asked who he wants to fight next. “But if it were up to me, I would probably pick the winner of Joshua and Ruiz. “I think Joshua,” Usyk said when asked who he would prefer to fight next.

You can expect Hearn to be extra careful in selecting Usyk’s next opponent after the way he looked against Witherpoon. It’s important that Hearn match Usyk against a world class heavyweight in his next fight rather than another older fighter. Hearn dug up Tyrone Spong for Usyk to fight, and he was a guy with no real experience in boxing.

Knowing Hearn, he’ll pick out an obscure world ranked heavyweight for Usyk to face next. Spong was someone that few boxing fans had ever heard of, but he was ranked highly with the WBO at #6 despite him never having beaten a top level fighter.

Hearn will likely pick out Usyk’s next opponent from this bunch of contenders:

  • Junior Fa
  • Agit Kabayel
  • Frank Sanchez Faure
  • Otto Wallin
  • Christopher Lovejoy
  • Charles Martin
  • Sergey Kuzmin
  • Gerald Washington
  • Kyotaro Fujimoto
  • Mladen Miljas
  • Evgeny Romanov
  • Carlos Takam

Takam is the probable next opponent for Usyk, as he was originally scheduled to fight him, and he’s well known. It’s another old guy for Usyk, but it’s doubtful that Hearn will care too much about that. Takam will be turning 39 in December. If Usyk faces Takam, it would mean that his last two opponents would have a combined age of 77.

Usyk wants to gain more weight

“I think I will add more weight. Adding more weight is absolutely no problem, but the problem is adding the speed when gaining weight,” said Usyk. “So we will need to do that properly, and we need to do that the right way, because we don’t want to lose the boxing skills. Right now, I miss boxing. I would like to fight,” said Usyk when asked if he would like to get another fight in before he challenges the Joshua vs. Ruiz rematch winner. “

It might be a mistake on Usyk’s part to gain any additional weight. He’s been fighting at around 215 lbs since he turned pro, and he would probably slow down if he bulked up to 230 or 240. Adding additional muscle to Usyk’s frame won’t make him a bigger puncher. He doesn’t have the frame to be a power puncher.

Oleksander has studied Holyfield’s fights

“It was my first fight, and there are four belts that I haven’t obtained yet,” said Usyk to secondsout about his debut at heavyweight. “Of course, I’ve been watching their fights, and studying their fights, Evander Holyfield, David Haye, and all those great champions,” said Usyk.

“They will not notice me,” said Usyk about the other top heavyweights in the division. “That is the main core of the secret. This is the illusion of cheating. I love to cheat, but only in the ring.”

Usyk can never be what Evander Holyfield was during his best years as a pro. Holyfield was a big puncher at cruiserweight, and he had enough power to transition well into the heavyweight division. He weighed less than 210 pounds, but he could punch. It won’t help Usyk studying Holyfield’s past fights, because he’s not cut out to be a puncher. It’s like a weak line drive hitter in baseball studying Babe Ruth’s games, hoping to hit 60 home runs per season. It’s not going to happen.

Usyk took his time with Witherspoon

“I had to study him first because I was preparing for the other opponent [Tyrone Spong],” said Usyk about Witherspoon. “I had to study him for the first four rounds, and after the 4th, I started my active stuff. And as soon as I started, it was all finished. I understand what you say. I’m going to start speaking soon,” said Usyk about his English.

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