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Oleksandr Usyk: ‘No problems’ in move to heavyweight

The former cruiserweight champion makes his heavyweight debut on Oct. 12.

Oleksandr Usyk v Tony Bellew - Cruiserweight World Title Fight Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk will finally make his much-anticipated move to the heavyweight division on Oct. 12, when he headlines in Chicago against former kickboxing star Tyrone Spong, live on DAZN.

The 32-year-old Ukrainian, who won gold at the 2012 Olympics, has largely dominated as a professional. He won the WBO title in 2016, beating Krzysztof Glowacki, and added the WBC, WBA, and IBF titles in 2018 with wins over Murat Gassiev and Mairis Briedis, in addition winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament.

Usyk hasn’t fought since Nov. 2018, when he went to Manchester and knocked off British star Tony Bellew via eighth round TKO, after which he signaled his intent to move to the heavyweight ranks.

Usyk (16-0, 12 KO) was set to make his heavyweight debut this spring, but was injured and had to postpone. Other than that setback, he says the move up in weight has gone smoothly.

“There have been no problems in order to move to the heavyweight division,” said Usyk. “At least to me there have been no problems. I simply moved to the heavyweight division, and that was it. Virtually nothing has changed in my training, we’ve simply started doing even more work. Different, and hard work, which is practicing with big guys who pose a great threat.

“We’re working hard, smiling, going crazy during the training camp, and doing our job. Everyone who is in my camp does their job 100 per cent meaning that they give everything so that I feel comfortable. Everything is as comfortable as possible; the food, rehab, resting, massage, training. My team is looking after all of it and we are working hard together.”

Usyk says as an amateur, he fought light as a “super heavyweight,” so he has experience against naturally bigger opponents.

“Before the (2012) Olympics, and even before the (2011) World Championships, when I was boxing at 91 kilos (200 pounds), we were experimentally boxing in the heavyweight class specifically so that it would be more dangerous,” he said.

“I weighed in at a competition, for example, not 91 kilos but 91.5 (201 pounds), and was boxing against the guys weighing 100-102-105 (220-230 pounds), which was our objective. And it was not only I who was boxing one class up, Vasiliy Lomachenko was, Oleksandr Gvozdyk and all of those who were part of that golden Ukrainian team.”

Against Spong (14-0, 13 KO), he’s got an odd first opponent at the new weight. The 34-year-old Surinamese-Dutch fighter had a pro kickboxing record of 91-7-1 and was a standout star in that sport. He made his pro boxing debut in 2015, and has done well, albeit against competition far below Usyk’s level.

What could make the fight dangerous is Spong’s power, and the fact that he might present an awkward style for Usyk. That said, Usyk is and should be a major favorite, and says he’s looking forward to getting back in the ring.

“I’m really looking forward to boxing on Oct. 12. I very much missed the boxing,” he said. “I love boxing, and really there is a lot of talk about it, but I’m not paying attention to it. My objective is to do my job in the gym in order to show all the enthusiasts and fans great boxing in the ring.”

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