Given it wasn’t long ago that he was the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world and he remains unbeaten as a professional, it seems odd to talk about Oleksandr Usyk as an outsider for a fight. But that is exactly what he will be when he faces Anthony Joshua in September.
The Ukrainian has the opportunity to win the WBA, IBF and WBO belts after just two fights in the heavyweight division. He stopped Chazz Witherspoon in the seventh round on his debut as a heavyweight in 2019, while last year he beat Derek Chisora on points.
Like Joshua, Usyk also won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in the heavyweight division. He avoided the British boxer who was a weight category above at super heavyweight. A clash between the pair is set to be one of the biggest heavyweight showdowns since the turn of the millennium.
Usyk will be fully aware that he is not the biggest boxer to fight at heavyweight as a professional. He will be buoyed by some of the success which was had by Evander Holyfield and David Haye. They are the only two former cruiserweight champions who have gone on to win a world heavyweight title.
The bookmakers make Usyk the underdog at 2/1 in the boxing betting for this fight. Just like in all 25 of his previous bouts, Joshua is the odds-on favourite. Although this won’t quite be on the same scale of a surprise, the challenger will be looking to repeat what Andy Ruiz Jr did by upsetting those odds.
Defeat For Joshua Could Jeopardize Fight With Fury
Many boxing fans were hoping to see Joshua fight Tyson Fury in a unification contest this summer for all four major belts in this division. That contest is unlikely to take place now until 2022 at the earliest, as long as both men come through their next respective clashes.
Should Joshua face defeat, he would almost certainly want a rematch with Usyk. Without the three major belts, Fury’s team may also not be interested in going ahead with the fight which would crown the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennon Lewis in 2000.
Fury also has his own fight to worry about. He will take on Deontay Wilder in October in what will complete a trilogy between the two men. In their first fight in 2018, it finished in a draw following 12 rounds. Fury won their second contest when he stopped the American in the seventh round last year in what was a dominant display.
Usyk will want to be part of a unification contest himself. Victory over Joshua could help him set up a shot at Fury for the WBC belt. The man from Ukraine would be chasing history as no fighter has ever been the undisputed heavyweight and cruiserweight champion before.
With big fights scheduled for later this year and some more mammoth contests on the horizon, the heavyweight division is in a healthy place right now.