What next for Oleksandr Usyk?
Usyk was unfazed by the hostile reception he faced at the Manchester Arena.
Oleksandr Usyk underlined his status as one of the finest fighters of his era with a devastating eighth-round knockout of Tony Bellew at the weekend.
Usyk was unfazed by the hostile reception he faced at the Manchester Arena and retained his WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO cruiserweight titles – plus the prestigious Ring Magazine belt – by clinically ending Bellew’s brave challenge.
The Ukrainian has been linked with a move up to the more lucrative heavyweight division so, here, Press Association Sport considers some of the 31-year-old’s options.
It is not hard to see the attraction: both men are Olympic gold medallists and have risen to the top of their respective weight classes in style. A showdown between the undisputed cruiserweight champion and the man widely regarded as the man to beat at heavyweight seems inevitable, especially as Usyk signed a multi-fight deal with the same promotional company as Joshua earlier this year. Usyk, though, will need to acclimatise to the blue riband division with one or two tune-ups and even admitted on Saturday night it was “too early” to be talking about fighting Joshua next.
If Usyk wants to increase his bargaining position ahead of a Joshua meeting and further his reputation among fans in this country then a fight against Whyte is certainly appealing, assuming the Londoner beats Dereck Chisora in their rematch next month. Whyte has catapulted himself into the world’s top five heavyweights after recovering from his only professional defeat against Joshua three years ago. Stylistically this could play into Usyk’s hands as Whyte is only one inch taller and Bellew, one of the more erudite analysts, believes only the “giants” on the heavyweight scene have the potential to topple the highly-skilled southpaw.
The brash Miller would provide the ideal opponent if Usyk was looking to establish himself to a United States audience. The unbeaten Miller is from Brooklyn so any bout would likely take place at Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center. Similar to Whyte, Miller is a comparable height to Usyk, who could find himself giving away up to 100lbs in weight, with the American scaling in excess of 300lbs in his two most recent outings. Miller, though, has compiled a decent record of 19 stoppages in his 22 professional wins to date so would be no easy night’s work for Usyk.
Stay put at cruiserweight
Consider this: the likes of Roy Jones Jr, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao never held the four major world belts in a weight class at the same time. Usyk has done what those all-time greats and many more have not – and which is more, he only needed 15 fights to achieve it after coming out on top of the pile in a World Boxing Super Series full of high-calibre opponents. Usyk, therefore, may not be willing to give up his place at the top of the cruiserweight division so easily. The only problems with this are he has already beaten all of his major rivals while his purses at 200lbs are likely to be smaller.