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THE heavyweight unexpectedly stagnated this year, with Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder going in different directions on different broadcasters. But a new face is stepping up to heavyweight and Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk might just be the man to change the division.
On May 25 Usyk will move up from cruiserweight to fight Carlos Takam at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Usyk, who won a gold medal at the same Olympic Games as Joshua’s triumph, rapidly became the undisputed champion at cruiserweight, beating Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev in a thrilling run to win the World Boxing Super Series. He defended his titles against the best opponent he could find, former world champion Tony Bellew and is now ready to move up to heavyweight.
Takam is a good opponent for Usyk to test himself in this weight class. The Cameroonian is shorter than Usyk but he is a big, broad man. In 2017 Takam took Anthony Joshua 10 rounds and at times certainly made the unified world champion look uncomfortable. Although Dereck Chisora knocked out Takam last year, prior to that though the Cameroonian was swarming all over him.
Usyk should be able to demonstrate that he is a threat in this new division. He should quickly become a major heavyweight. But what sets him apart from Joshua, Fury and Wilder, the big three, is simply his size. They are giants, six foot six or taller in Fury’s case. Usyk’s style is completely different. His footwork is masterful, he is quick on his feet and he can dissect an opponent. Comparing him to Joshua for instance would make for a fascinating fight.
But what Usyk will need to demonstrate is that he can punch hurtfully in the top division and that he can handle the power of the kind of monstrous punchers that lurk at heavyweight. Usyk might just be the man though to change the dynamic in the weight class.