The problem that none of the heavyweights wanted has just arrived, with a devious smile.
Oleksandr Usyk is the man who could ruin it all – the dreams of Anthony Joshua, the promises of Deontay Wilder, the unbeaten record of Tyson Fury. Usyk was always lurking in the darkness, threatening to emerge, but now is his moment.
The brilliant Ukrainian is the latest addition to a heavyweight division that has become fractured by Andy Ruiz Jr’s win against Joshua, and Usyk believes he is the man to mop up the mess.
馃槷@usykaa cannot believe our autumn schedule on Sky Sports馃く#UndisputedLineUp pic.twitter.com/tTXwrKE2Au
— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) September 24, 2019
Live Fight Night International
October 13, 2019, 2:00am
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass
He fights Tyron Spong on Saturday night, live on Sky Sports, in his heavyweight debut after winning every major championship at cruiserweight plus an Olympic gold medal.
The goal is supremacy in the land of the giants, preferably against Joshua.
This is a boxer at his absolute peak. He is not building towards anything – he wants it all now. Thirty-two years old, unbeaten and rested after a 2018 so glory-laden that it ranks alongside any fighter’s accomplishments inside a calendar year.
He is a welcome throwback, calculating like a python that slowly and cruelly crushes its prey. You won’t hear him speak often – he hunts silently, those reptile-like eyes locked on his target. He wins where he’s not welcome, in Gdansk, Riga and Moscow. He wins where he is welcome, in Britain and the US.
Marco Huck, Mairis Breidis, Murat Gassiev and Tony Bellew were all beaten in their home countries in consecutive fights, spanning just 14 months. That is a stunning run of form.
Bellew called him “the greatest man I have ever shared a ring with”, and added: “He’s so hard to pin down. Exceptional.
“Anyone that faces him is in a lot of trouble. Only the very best, and the very biggest, will find a way to beat him.”
Usyk’s won the World Boxing Super Series and accrued the undisputed cruiserweight championship during that sensational streak, setting him up for this next chapter among boxing’s big boys.
Joshua was in Usyk’s sights before he lost his world heavyweight titles. In the build-up to facing Bellew, Usyk’s promoter Alexander Krassyuk told Sky Sports: “The boxing world would desire the clash of two Olympic champs and two [future] undisputed professionals.”
Usyk ominously said moments after beating Bellew: “Becoming heavyweight champion of the world is not what I’m dreaming of. It’s my goal. It’s what I’m planning to do.”
Joshua and Usyk had a combined 37 wins, seven world title belts and two Olympic golds before Ruiz Jr put a fly in the ointment.
Asked for his dream heavyweight fight, Usyk recently replied: “Anthony Joshua at Wembley. I think it would be much harder for me to fight Joshua than Ruiz Jr. If you want to be the best, you have to fight the best.”
Joshua has warned: “It’s not just based on skill, the heavyweight division. It’s based on will. How much you can take.”
View this post on Instagram
Get ready. 12 october #UsykSpong #WintrustArena #Chicago 馃嚭馃嚘馃嚭馃嚫 鉅€ #usyk #usyk17 #usyksportswear #akblapin #lomus #usykteam #heavyweight #ukraine #p4p #boxer #褍褋懈泻 #褍泻褉邪懈薪邪 #泻懈械胁 #斜芯泻褋
And that is essentially the burning question because the brilliance skills of Usyk are not up for debate. But he is three inches shorter than Joshua, has four inches less reach, and is about three stone lighter. That will be a major hurdle to jump.
It explains why Evander Holyfield and David Haye are the only boxers to ever win world titles at cruiserweight and heavyweight. Like Usyk they are 6’3” with a 78” inch reach, and weighed-in less than 16 stone. Usyk, unlike Holyfield and Haye, will not rely on strength or power but finesse and footwork.
Remember he has beaten Michael Hunter (who has since moved up to heavyweight) and Joe Joyce, now 10-0 as a pro heavyweight, in a short-format amateur fight.
“His skill-set is really amazing, like Vasiliy Lomachenko’s,” Joyce told Sky Sports. “His punches didn’t bother me because he was lighter, but he was so crisp and sharp. With his head movement, it is really hard to even lay a glove on him.”
This weekend’s opponent in Chicago will be Surinam-born and Miami-based Spong, who has 14 wins and no defeats as a boxer after a successful run as a kickboxer. Only one of Spong’s foes has avoided a knockout demise.
Usyk will retain his status as mandatory challenger to the WBO heavyweight title, which Ruiz Jr and Joshua will contest on December 7, if he comes through unscathed against Spong. That sets him up for a world heavyweight championship fight next year, and a place in history.