Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk’s delayed move up to the heavyweight division went favorably for the Ukrainian in front of an excited crowd tonight in Chicago, as Usyk stopped Chazz Witherspoon after seven rounds of increasingly one-sided fighting.
At the time of the stoppage, Bad Left Hook had Usyk up on two cards, both by scores of 69-64.
Usyk (17-0, 13 KO) was fighting for the first time since Nov. 2018, and had a planned May return against Carlos Takam scrapped when he suffered a biceps injury in training. Takam moved on, Tyrone Spong was drafted in, Spong failed a drug test, and Witherspoon stepped in this week on very short notice.
Given the circumstances, the fight went pretty normally. Witherspoon (38-4, 29 KO) gave what effort he had to give, threw back when Usyk did open up on offense, but was gassed out by the end of the seventh round, and gave up the ghost there.
It’s still an open question what we have with Usyk, 32, as a heavyweight. Takam figured to be a nice little test for the move up, but we didn’t learn much with this, as Witherspoon has long been out of the bigger fights in the sport and didn’t pose much of a threat aside from being a big man.
“I did what my trainer told me to do,” Usyk said. “I just followed the orders. We had the plan, and the plan was to box. I did box, and if we got opportunities, use those opportunities.”
As the WBO’s mandatory challenger, Usyk was asked if he feels he’d be ready to face the Ruiz-Joshua 2 winner in his next fight, and responded, “If it’s offered, of course I’m going to take it.”
It certainly wasn’t a big highlight reel arrival in the division, he didn’t dropkick through the door, but Usyk is here, and he’s a tremendous talent with a lot of room to grow into a true heavyweight threat. Skill-wise, he’s already among the best in the division. We’ll see how he fares against more live competition as we go on, and it could be as soon as his next outing.