Oleksandr Usyk: Team should take a page from Evander Holyfield
Fight phenom Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12 KO) will make his heavyweight debut against Tyrone Spong (14-0) next month.
Usyk, of course, is the undisputed cruiserweight champion and a top 10 pound for pound fighter. However, it's still baffling how he became the WBO's No.1 heavyweight challenger despite a) never fighting as a heavyweight and b) the loaded talent in the division.
It's not uncommon for a great fighter in a weight class to be moved to the top of the food chain in a brand new division after simply announcing his plans to move to that weight class.
However, when that happens those divisions tend to be stagnate. The heavyweight division is red hot.
Usyk is a great fighter but is he deserving of the WBO's mandatory challenger position, already? He's leaped over Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte, Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker.
The WBO's placement of Oleksandr is a slap in the face to those guys - and the division.
(Image courtesy of Box.Live)
Moreover, Team Usyk will likely enforce its status as the WBO's top contender and have its man challenge for (at least) the WBO version of the title in only Oleksandr's second bout as a heavyweight.
... But, that's now how Team Holyfield groomed Evander as a heavyweight.
Let's go back to 1988. Evander Holyfield was the undisputed cruiserweight champion and, like Usyk today, regarded as one of the top fighters in the world. As yes, there were already rumblings of a superfight showdown with then-champion Mike Tyson upon Evander's decision to move up to heavyweight. However, Evander didn't aim for the big cookies right away.
Prior to getting a shot at Buster Douglas for the heavyweight title in 1990, Evander defeated heavyweight contenders: James Tillis, Pinklon Thomas, Michael Dokes, Adilson Rodrigues, Alex Stewart and Seamus McDonagh.
He was 6-0 against five established heavyweights and the unknown talent, McDonagh, who was still a formidable 19-1-1 when he faced Evander.
Perhaps Usyk doesn't have to fight six times but it would be nice to see him fight at least 3 or 4 times as a heavyweight prior to challenging for a world title. Heavyweights today are bigger than in Holyfield's day so Oleksandr may need time adjusting to taller foes with longer reaches who pack a harder punch than what he's accustomed to.
After facing Spong in October, let's see Usyk in the ring against two opponents like Dereck Chisora or Oscar Rivas in 2020 prior to fighting for a heavyweight title.