By Jeff Aranow: Oleksandr Usyk will be making his heavyweight debut three months from now against Carlos Takam on DAZN on October 12 or October 19, possibly at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois, according to Dan Rafael. This is the fight that was previously scheduled for May 25, but Usyk had to pull out due to a biceps injury he suffered while training for the match.
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) must beat the 38-year-old former heavyweight world title challenger Takam (36-5-1 28 KOs) in order to stay in line to face the winner of the December 14th rematch between IBF/WBA/WBO champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua.
WBO recently made Usyk mandatory challenger for Ruiz
In a recent highly criticized move, the World Boxing Organization recently made the 32-year-old Usyk the mandatory for the WBO title held by Ruiz Jr. (33-1, 22 KOs) without the Ukrainian ever having fought in the heavyweight division. The winner of the Joshua-Ruiz Jr. rematch must defend the WBO belt against Usyk in their next fight. But before that, Usyk will be making his heavyweight debut against Takam. It’s unclear whether Ruiz Jr will bother fighting Usyk if he beats Joshua though, because there’s no money in a fight against the finesse-oriented Usyk. He’s not a big name in the United States, and his fighting style is more of an amateur oriented style with lobs of jabbing, and very few power punches. In Usyk’s last fight, he was getting out-punched by 36-year-old cruiserweight Tony Bellew last November.
Usyk was losing the fight on two of the three judges’ scorecards when Bellew gassed out in the eighth round, and was stopped. Had Bellew’s stamina not given out, he likely would have beaten Usyk in that fight. Usyk was a good cruiserweight, but not a dominant one in the Evander Holyfield mold. He wasn’t that type of talent. Last year, Usyk squeaked by Mairis Briedis by a narrow 12 round majority decision in January 2018 in the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament. Usyk would later win the WBSS tournament by beating Murat Gassiev in the final. Gassiev looked poor. He showed good punching power, but a horrible work rate, and never let his hands go.
Oleksandr will be undersized and under-powered at heavyweight
Usyk will be greatly undersized at heavyweight, and it’s going to be tough for him to win at this level. If Joshua wins back his WBO title, he’ll have no problems fighting Usyk, because he’s from the same Matchroom Boxing stable as him, and his promoter Eddie Hearn would want that fight. There would be interest in a fight between Joshua and Usyk in the UK. The United States is different. Ruiz Jr. vs. Usyk wouldn’t interest the American boxing fans, because Oleksandr is a little known fighter, and his fighting style is similar to Tyson Fury. It’s not entertaining for U.S fans, who prefer to see action rather than the amateur style that Usyk uses.
Usyk’s promoter Hearn of Matchroom Boxing is still interested in matching him against the 38-year-old Takam for some reason. Hearn’s Matchroom stable has grown recently with him signing a number of top heavyweights that he could plug in with Usyk, and they’d likely give him a better fight than the recently knocked out Takam. Hearn is arguably protective with a lot of the fighters in his stable. When he does match his fighters, it’s generally against guys that they have a good shot at beating. Hearn deviates from that practice when he puts his guys in bigger fights.
Carlos Takam has lost 2 out of his last 3 fights
Takam’s record in his last three fights is 1-2 with two knockout losses to Dereck Chisora and Anthony Joshua. It wouldn’t be so bad for Usyk to fight Takam if this was just the start of him slowly earning a title shot over the next two to three years, but that’s not the case. If Usyk beats Takam, he’s supposed to be given a world title shot against the WBO belt holder in his next fight, be it Ruiz Jr. or Joshua. Takam gave Joshua some problems in losing by a 10th round knockout in October 2017 at the Principality Stadium, in Cardiff, Wales.
Most boxing fans would agree that the referee Phil Edwards stopped the fight prematurely in the 10th round, because Takam was still fighting back and din’t look at all hurt. Never the less, Joshua was dominating the fight, and well on his way to winning a wide decision had it gone the full 12 rounds. At the time of the stoppage, Joshua was ahead of Takam on the scorecards by the following scores: 89-81, 89-81 and 90-80. Those are lopsided scores.
Takam has losses to Joseph Parker in 2016 [12 round unanimous decision] and a 10th round knockout loss to Alexander Povetkin in 2014.
Usyk made WBO mandatory at heavyweight without fighting in division
The WBO already made Usyk their mandatory heavyweight without him fighting in the division. The WBO gives world champions a #1 ranking when they decide to move up a division. To some boxing fans, it makes sense, because the WBO is picking a former world champion to give a #1 ranking. But for a lot of other fans, they see it as wrong what the WBO is doing, because it allows world champions like Usyk to jump to the front of the line in a weight class he’s never fought at.
As of now, Usyk is ranked above Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte. It’s kind of baffling, given Usyk has never fought at heavyweight, and he was never a puncher at cruiserweight. Usyk is expected to bulk up to the low 220s, but he still likely won’t be a puncher at heavyweight. Usyk isn’t an Evander Holyfield type of talent.
When Holyfield moved up from cruiserweight to heavyweight in 1988, he came up with an impressive 18-0 record with 14 knockouts, and a lot of punching power. Although still small for the heavyweight division, Holyfield packed a punch, and he had a high work rate, and entertaining fighting style that involved a lot of combination punching. In Usyk’s case, he’s not a puncher. He’s a mover, who likes to jab, and bounce around the ring. Usyk doesn’t throw a lot of punches, and he’s not a combination puncher like Holyfield was. In every respect, Usyk is the complete opposite of Holyfield. It’s going to be difficult for Usyk to win over a dedicated fan base in the U.S with his fighting style, because it’s not thrilling to watch. When he does win at heavyweight, it’ll likely be decisions rather than by knockouts.
Usyk should fight a better opponent than Takam
Usyk is being matched against Takam rather than Filip Hrgovic or Michael Hunter. Oleksande beat Hunter two years ago by a 12 round decision in 2017 at cruiserweight, but he was forced to use a lot of movement, because he getting getting hit a lot. The crowd booed Usyk due to all the movement that he was using to avoid Hunter. The fans wanted to see action, and Usyk was avoiding Hunter. It was really dull to watch. Usyk was also booed in his fight against Thabiso Mchunu in 2016 in Inglewood, California. The lack of aggressiveness on Usyk’s part had Southern California boxing fans frustrated and bored.