Undisputed Cruiserweight King Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12KOs) has signalled his intentions to relinquish all his titles and move up to the heavyweight division but can the slick southpaw make an impact?
There have been some Cruiserweights that have made the transition to Heavyweight but very few are successful. David Haye was the last fighter to make the move up and win a World title but the greatest of them all was Evander Holyfield. The American is universally recognized as the greatest fighter in the history of the cruiserweight division and was the first boxer to unify all the straps in 1988.
The WBO version wasn’t considered as significant in the 1980’s so Usyk now holds the record of becoming the first boxer in history to hold all four major world championships at once after his win over Murat Gassiev in Russia.
It took the Ukrainian only 15-fights to achieve this amazing feat which was three fights fewer then Holyfield. You could argue that Holyfield was 6-years younger and faced tougher opposition but that is because we have the benefit of perspective on where those fighters stood over the course of history.
Holyfield defeated Hall of Famer Dwight Muhammad Qawi (twice) winning the WBA title in their second bout, Olympic Gold medallist Henry Tilman, former champions Ricky Parkey & Ossie ‘Jaws’ Ocasio and Carlos DeLeon to unify the Division.
Over time we will reflect on what Usyk has achieved in the Cruiserweight Division and have a better understanding. Russian Gassiev is only 25-years-old and has a lot of good years ahead of him and Marco Huck will already go down as one of the best at 200 lbs. Krzysztof Glowacki and Mairis Briedis are former world champions who may well retain a title next year and Tony Bellew is also a former WBC champion himself.
One thing that Usyk does have over Holyfield is an ability to fight overseas and defeat the best his division had to offer which cannot and should not be sniffed at. Winning and retaining World titles in Poland, America, Germany, Latvia, Russia and England is a fantastic accomplishment that is very rare in the business today.
We can study and compare records from yesteryear against the current crop of fighters we have today until the sun comes up but unfortunately, we will always produce different theories and answers. Therefore, boxing fans cannot make accurate judgments on a fighter’s career until time has passed.
One thing we do know for sure is heavyweights in the late 80’s and early 90’s were a lot smaller than today’s. So, without discrediting what a legend like Holyfield did the transition from the 200 lb division to fight as a heavyweight was easier back then. It took the 6’ 2” Holyfield just 2-years to become the first man in history to become undisputed champion in two weight classes, which would be nothing short of incredible if Usyk was to follow suite.
For the 31-year-old to repeat such a feat he would need to bide his time like Holyfield did. Let’s face it who would have thought that ‘Busta’ Douglas would have knocked out Mike Tyson to pick up all the titles? Credit to team Holyfield for managing to secure the opportunity to become unified champ against James Douglas rather than Mike Tyson.
A similar opening may come for Usyk to pick up a World title, like for instance if Anthony Joshua was unable to fulfil one his mandatory obligations he would be stripped by one of the governing bodies. If such a situation was to arise Usyk needs to be able to take full advantage.
In the meantime, fights against the smaller opponents of the division like American Bryant Jennings or Marco Huck who has once again moved back into the heavyweight division rather than call it a day on his career. But if Team Usyk are feeling confident then Russian Alexander Povetkin would be ideal preparation. Not only is Povetkin the perfect size and height, he would also be a very credible opponent. With Eddie Hearn now involved in guiding Usyk’s career a victory over the 39-year-old would probably catapult the Ukrainian into a position to fight in a title eliminator.
Further down the line fights against New Zealander Joseph Parker or Englishman Dillian Whyte could set-up a possible clash with Anthony Joshua if victorious. The other champion Deontay Wilder is indeed considered smaller in weight then these guys but his 6’ 7” frame would present a problem that Usyk has never faced before.
If the man from Kiev is adamant on moving through the division at a fast pace then he would need to make sure he is careful about how much weight he carries. Usyk does have an excellent team behind him that do have advanced knowledge in sports science, so they will know what assets he will lose with the extra weight gain. The last thing Team Usyk would want to do is take away his ability to move around the ring as freely as he does.
Mental strength is clearly another one of Usyk’s prized assets so making sure he doesn’t feel sluggish physically will keep his brain sharpe. The Cruiserweight King seems to enjoy figuring out a way to win when faced with problem solving and that strength alone will cause enormous problems for the monsters of the division.
Usyk will now go down in history along side Holyfield at Cruiserweight but the chances of him coming close to what Holyfield achieved at Heavyweight is very unlikely. Not because he’s not good enough but more because of father-time. At 31, he can still achieve great things but he will have to be moved along quickly which could end up being his downfall.
After researching the current crop of Heavyweights that are champions, contenders or future prospects here is a list of their average weight in their last 5 professional fights and thei recorded height;
Oleksandr Usyk: 200 lbs 6’ 2”
Marco Huck: 220 lbs 6’ 2”
Alexander Povetkin: 225 lbs 6’ 2”
Deontay Wilder: 225 lbs 6’ 7”
Bryant Jennings: 228 lbs 6’ 3”
Otto Wallin: 231 lbs 6’ 5”
Hughie Fury: 234 lbs 6’ 6”
Daniel Dubois: 238 lbs 6’ 6”
Tony Yoka: 240 lbs 6’ 7”
Luiz Ortiz: 241 lbs 6’ 4”
Carlos Takam: 242 lbs 6’ 1”
Joseph Parker: 249 lbs 6’ 3”
Charles Martin: 247 lbs 6’ 5”
Kubrat Pulev: 249 lbs 6’ 4”
Anthony Joshua: 248 lbs 6’ 6”
Dillian Whyte: 253 lbs 6’ 4”
Dereck Chisora: 253 lbs 6’ 1”
Nathan Gorman 253 lbs 6’ 3”
Joe Joyce: 254 lbs 6’ 6”
Adam Kownacki: 257 lbs 6’ 3”
Dominic Breazeale 257 lbs 6’ 7”
Tyson Fury: 261 lbs 6’ 9”
300 + pounds
Jarrell Miller: 300 lbs 6’ 4”