Sunday, October 01, 2023  |



Oleksandr Usyk returns Saturday in native Ukraine

Fighters Network
Oleksandr Usyk (R) faces off with Daniel Bruwer on Oct. 4, 2014, in Ukraine. Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images.

Oleksandr Usyk (R) faces off with Daniel Bruwer on Oct. 4, 2014, in Ukraine. Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images.

When there is a change at the top of the ladder, when the old guard is out, or at the end of the line, fight fans crave clarity. Who will be next to claim supremacy, put their stamp, with a contained level of violence, on the top of that pound for pound list?

In this time frame, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is out of the picture, and Manny Pacquaio has that finish line in site. Fans are wondering who will pick up their slack, who will be the focal points of our attention?

The usual suspects, the Golovkins and Chocloatitos and such, get hubbub. But if we revisit this issue in, say, two years, it could well be a fighter not many have heard of, or someone who maybe harder-core fans know, but who isn’t on masses of radar screens just yet.

Cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk, 8-0, with 8 KOs, a Ukrainian native, falls under this category. He gloves up Saturday, on a card in Kiev, where he’ll meet 22-1 (19 KOs), Pedro Rodriguez, a 29-year-old Cuban. Usyk’s WBO intercontinental crown will be up for grans; he secured that crown in just his fifth pro fight, in October 2014.

The son of two factory workers, like many folks who gravitate to this extreme sport, had an upbringing that wasn’t the height of cushy. “Sometimes I didn’t go to school because I had no shoes,” he told me, through an interpreter. He joked that his section of Ukraine, the southern section, Crimea, was “like Miami.”

He is more keen on talking about his future, though, like that Saturday fight. He doesn’t really know about Rodriguez, finding it more useful to have a handle on what he’ll be doing in the ring. And if we haven’t seen him in action, how does he describe his style? “I can’t describe it,” he said. “I’m like a painter, in the ring I paint a picture. In my opinion, boxing is an art.”
He sometimes compares notes on methods with his good buddy, Vasyl Lomachenko, in fact.

In the very near future, early in 2016, he will show his painting skills in a United States ring. “I want to win a world championship, I wanted to be one as a child. And I don’t care who I will be fighting in the future, I will fight everyone…I want all the belts. Will I soon fight as a heavyweight? Now, I’m a cruiserweight.”

When he touches down here and shows you his painting skills, you are likely to see a patient predator, a lefty who is active on his feet. He bounces, moves, pops, slips and dips, seeks an advantageous angle, and can generate power in a short span of distance. His jab paws, then elongates, and he mixes in hooks and looks to be a capable defender. He will close the distance, make you drop your hands with body work, so he can try and discombobulate your head. He does have one-punch power, but more so prefers to take a bit of time to be in a position to drop it.

Keep him on your watch list, that is my recommendation, he’s yet another rock-solid pugilist from the fight factory that is his part of the world.

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