The current heavyweight division in pro boxing is by and large a triumvirate of British duo Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury alongside WBC champ Deontay Wilder, but a new contender is trying to emerge.
There is nothing more Oleksandr Usyk can do at cruiserweight, having unified the 200lb class and become undisputed champion – emulating the likes of Terence Crawford and Bernard Hopkins in the process.
The 32-year-old Ukrainian now steps up to heavyweight and tackles Carlos Takam in the MGM National Harbor, some ten miles outside of Washington D.C., on the night of May 25.
Given Takam, who holds dual citizenship of France and Cameroon, the country of his birth, has suffered four losses in as many years and his previous ten bouts, this looks on paper to be an easy opener for Usyk at heavyweight.
Takam’s defeats have come courtesy of fellow heavyweight contenders Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker, who were subsequently beaten by Joshua after he too stopped the Cameroon native, and most recently, Dereck Chisora.
We’re largely talking about the second rank of the division that Takam has taken on and been found wanting against. He does come into the Usyk fight off the back of a victory over Senad Gashi of Germany, however.
Bookmakers see 38-year-old Takam as the underdog, though. Usyk is a strong 1/14 favourite in the latest boxing betting on their fight. Takam is the 7/1 outsider despite having greater experience.
Usyk has an extensive amateur background competing at heavyweight and won Olympic gold at London 2012, having previously lost in the quarter-finals at Beijing 2008.
Since joining the paid ranks, he’s fought at cruiserweight, amassing an undefeated professional record of 16-0. Of those fights, Usyk has stopped a dozen opponents and won three by unanimous decision.
Victory in the World Boxing Super Series brought the undisputed title with it, which he successfully defended against Tony Bellew in the British fighter’s final bout before retirement.
It’s now the time for southpaw Usyk to start staking his claim at heavyweight. Takam obviously retains some ability as he stopped Gashi, but turns 39 at the end of this year and age catches up with us all.
This is the first step on the road to being talked about in the conversation alongside Wilder, Joshua and Fury. Usyk certainly has plenty in common with the heavyweight big boys – the amateur grounding in this sport for starters.
Wilder was a bronze medallist in Beijing in the same bracket that Usyk and the two could have met in the semi-finals were it not for Clemente Russo. Joshua, meanwhile, won gold at super-heavyweight at London 2012 on home soil and Fury was British national amateur champion.
An opening victory at heavyweight would just be the beginning for Usyk, who was named by many boxing publications as fighter of the year for 2018. Nobody could live with him at cruiserweight and, in an era where fans hope to see the heavyweight division unified, he is very much a dark horse that the establishment must keep tabs on.