When Oleksandr Usyk entered the World Boxing Super Series at Cruiserweight, he was taking a tremendous risk that very few fighters would have taken in a similar situation. Usyk, then 12-0, was going to run the gauntlet of facing the best Cruiserweights in the world in hopes that he could unify titles in a division very few people outside of the most hardcore of boxing pundits cared for. However, much like Andre Ward’s domination in the Super Six tournament nearly a decade ago, Usyk not only won the tournament but came out looking like a force to be reckoned with.
Usyk destroyed division mainstay and potential future hall of fame ex-champ Marco Huck before beating ferocious undefeated punchers Mairis Bredis and Murat Gassiev in such a fashion that indicates the now 15-0 Usyk is ready for bigger and better things. The Cruiserweight division offers him no more challenges or worthy challengers, not to mention that at 31 years of age, Usyk isn’t planning on wasting the remaining years of his prime facing middling opposition in a division where he is the unquestionable king.
The next step, and the most logical one, will be to follow the footsteps of former Crusierweight big shots Evander Holyfield and David Haye into the Heavyweight division and towards eternal glory. Though Usyk would be considered undersized and short on the firepower to compete with the Heavyweight division, there is little to indicate that he would crash and burn like many Crusierweights who took the leap before him.
Usyk has everything he needs not only to compete at Heavyweight, but to potentially go on the most meaningful run a Cruiserweight has enjoyed since Holyfield. Granted, nobody with half a brain is going to confuse Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua for George Foreman or Riddick Bowe, but that’s exactly why he will succeed.
The skill, talent and experience he gained from the WBSS immediately would make him a favorite against all but the very best the division has to offer, which is basically Joshua, Wilder and (maybe) Luis Ortiz. A quick look at the division outside of the champions does not really provide a challenger that would trouble what we saw last weekend, and using the right momentum building fights could very well see him rise up to being the man to face once Joshua and Wilder grow up and fight each other.
That first step would be against Tony Bellew, the former Light Heavyweight and Cruiserweight champion enjoying a red herring run at Heavyweight. Bellew’s two stoppage wins over David Haye were more impressive than they actually were, especially considering that Haye’s best days were long before he campaigned at Heavyweight and that years of injury and inactivity ruined him long before Bellew upset him. Usyk and Bellew have a mutual interest in fighting each other, and chances are that they will get the opportunity to do just that in the near future.
Unless Joshua gets his hands on him should he beat Alexander Povetkin next month, Jarrell Miller is the perfect next step. Miller’s propensity to act out would make for a great promotion, and being that Miller is literally right on that bubble to face off against either Joshua or Wilder, a win against a surging and legitimate Heavyweight would serve as his true arrival among the big men. All of this seems like it could happen now that Usyk is allegedly being pursued by Joshua and Miller’s promoter and boxing’s biggest power broker, Eddie Hearn.
At that point, it would be a matter of when he gets his shot. If Joshua and Wilder are tied up, then Tyson Fury could come looking his way touting his claim as the division’s true champion. Otherwise, the fluffer fights could be fast and furious, but eventually someone is going to have to face him.
While I like his chances more against Wilder at this moment in time, by the time he faces either champion he’ll already be a force to be reckoned. Whether or not Oleksandr Usyk will become the next great Heavyweight champion is left to be seen but if every journey begins with a first step, then he’s taken a big one towards better things, and we should be happy we’re going to be along for the ride.