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Dougie’s Monday mailbag (all about Usyk: vs. Gassiev, Bellew, the heavyweights, his P4P ranking)

Photo: Twitter @WBSS
23
Jul

MOSCOW MASTERPIECE

Well, well, well, Dougie,

What can you say about that?

I’m struggling to think of another performance quite as emphatic as that one, in a supposed 50-50 fight with the stakes that high!?!?



Much like his compatriot Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk seems to be able to take the pride then break the heart of any man who steps on the ring with him.

Footwork from another world, unbelievable volume punching akin to a prime Joe Calzaghe, 7/8/9 punch combos at angles that make no sense and a granite chin – he has it all and more!

Given that he’s got all the marbles at Cruiser, what do you think he could achieve realistically at Heavyweight? – Dan, an Englishman in New York

Ask me that question after Usyk fights Tony Bellew. There’s no disputing that he’s THE MAN at cruiserweight, but we won’t know how effective he is at heavyweight until we see him in with a solid big man. Bellew, who began his career at light heavy, is not a modern-sized heavyweight but at least he’s gotten his feet wet in the division with the two David Haye fights.

Usyk won the 2011 world amateur championships and 2012 Olympics at heavyweight, which is basically the cruiserweight limit in the amateurs (91 kg/201 pounds), but he fought at super heavyweight (91 kg+/over 200 pounds) during his pit-stop with the World Series of Boxing prior to turning pro. He weighed around 210-212 pounds for those five-round semi-pro bouts and won them all, including a bout with British standout Joe Joyce, whom he outclassed and bloodied.

However, as raw as Joyce was (the Brit only had about five years of experience in the sport at the time) and as many times as Usyk nailed him flush with head-snapping power punches and roundhouse haymakers, the Olympic champion couldn’t wobble or even discourage the naturally bigger man. Usyk also seemed to be bothered a bit by Joyce’s jab and he appeared to be winded in the final two rounds, which makes me wonder how he’d deal with the left sticks of the much-bigger heavies like Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte (or in the case of Deontay Wilder, who only weighed 214-125 for his last bout, much taller and rangier) over 12 rounds.

What can you say about that? Nothing. You just have to stand up and give the new undisputed cruiserweight champ a slow clap (which is what I did from my living room sofa as soon as the final bell rang).

I’m struggling to think of another performance quite as emphatic as that one, in a supposed 50-50 fight with the stakes that high!?!? Good question. Roy Jones Jr. vs. James Toney comes to mind.

Much like his compatriot Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk seems to be able to take the pride then break the heart of any man who steps on the ring with him. They mentally handcuff their opponents as well as prime Pernell Whitaker, James Toney and Floyd Mayweather Jr. did.

Footwork from another world, unbelievable volume punching akin to a prime Joe Calzaghe, 7/8/9 punch combos at angles that make no sense and a granite chin – he has it all and more! He ALMOST has it all. He doesn’t have the proverbial eraser in his fists, but with his skill and athleticism, he doesn’t need to rely on punching power.

 

USYK VS. BELLEW

Hey Dougie,

Great performance by Usyk on Saturday night. Big chance that he will box Bellew next so, burning question, who wins that fight? I’ve discovered it’s best to never write off the Bomber, particularly at Cruiserweight and above. I think he has the footwork, boxing brain and educated jab to eventually nail Usyk so it’s all down to whether Usyk can take Bellew’s leather.

Call me crazy but I’m calling a Bellew KO. What do you think?!

All the best to you and yours and keep doing what you do! – Mark, UK

Thanks Mark. I think Bellew makes for a solid test in Usyk’s pro heavyweight debut. The Liverpool attraction is crafty and dangerous due to his confidence, experience, power and sneaky punch selection, but he won’t have much of size advantage being the same height as Usyk (6-foot-3), having a shorter wingspan (by four inches), and weighing between 210-212 pounds.

My hunch is that Usyk can carry as much as 215 pounds without losing his edge in speed, reflexes, mobility and freakish punch output, so I’ve gotta go with the Ukrainian star in this matchup. I think his chin will hold up even if he catches a few flush shots and he’ll outpoint Bellew in an entertaining fight that’s more competitive than the World Boxing Super Series final turned out.

 

THE WBSS FINAL

Hey Doug,

How’s it been? Good I hope.

After searching the web, I was able to view the WBSS finals between Uysk and Gassiev. I was rooting for Gassiev and thought (especially after his performance against Dorticos) that he had the skillset to beat Usyk. But Saturday, he looked flustered by Usyk footwork. Usyk kept his lead foot outside of Gassiev’s all night long and Gassiev couldn’t land those powerful shots he loves to throw. Usyk’s amateur pedigree and athleticism were on full display.

Where do you think these guys go from here? Will both tackle the heavyweight division? Fight with Bellew from the UK?

Thanks for all that you do and keep up the good work. – D.W. from Boston, Ma

Thanks for the kind words, D. W. I’m glad you were able to find a stream of the fight. I was able to access KlowdTV from my Fire Stick and watched the WBSS main event on my flat screen, which was nice. Too bad we didn’t get see the dramatic fight-of-the-year candidate we had hoped for, but at least we witnessed one of the more impressive high-profile/high-stakes boxing clinics in recent years. Usyk boxed a near-perfect fight against a dangerous, battle-proven fellow unified titleholder and made it look almost effortless.

I was rooting for Gassiev and thought (especially after his performance against Dorticos) that he had the skillset to beat Usyk. You weren’t alone in that opinion. Even the granddaddy of hardcore boxing heads, Coach Schwartz, felt confident that Gassiev could spark Usyk. Murat can probably KO every other top 200 pounder in the world, but like the last undisputed cruiserweight champ, Evander Holyfield, Usyk is The Real Deal.

Photo: Twitter @WBSS

But Saturday, he looked flustered by Usyk footwork. He was. Gassiev was also flustered by Usyk’s jab, high-volume punch output and his composure under fire.

Usyk kept his lead foot outside of Gassiev’s all night long and Gassiev couldn’t land those powerful shots he loves to throw. He appeared mentally out of it by the middle rounds, no jab, and no combinations when in range.

Usyk’s amateur pedigree and athleticism were on full display. Yes, Usyk’s massive edge in amateur experience clearly showed.

Where do you think these guys go from here? Both will eventually wind up at heavyweight, Usyk will do so before Gassiev, who has more time on his side being only 24. I think Usyk will go for a big-money UK showdown with Bellew and then take care of one or two mandatory defenses (such as a rematch with Mairis Briedis and another Russian challenge from Denis Lebedev) before taking aim at the big names of the heavyweight division. Gassiev will likely take well-deserved a break and then face someone highly rated in the sanctioning organizations where he once reigned as champ (the WBA and IBF), that way he will be in position to fight for those belts once Usyk vacates them to challenge the big boys. The recently returned Beibut Shumenov (who holds one of the WBA’s dozen cruiserweight straps) is a perfect foil. A rematch with Lebedev would make for a big event in Russia, and talented up-and-comers Andrew Tabiti and Kevin Lerena would make for interesting machups.

 

USYK MYTHICAL MATCHUPS

Hi Dougie, to use Spinal Tap’s gauge I’d rate Usyk’s performance thus:

Punch output 11

Footwork       11

Ring IQ            11

Not much of a puncher though. What do you think of his chances at heavyweight?

Few matchups:

Usyk v Holyfield (at cruiser)

Usyk v Joshua

Usyk v Wilder

Usyk v Haye (cruiser)

I happen to think he’d do better at boxing Joshua than Wilder. – Robert

You might be right about that but that doesn’t mean he can beat the IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titleholder. We haven’t seen Usyk in with a world-class athlete and technically sound boxer who effectively carries 240-250 pounds and has the decided height and reach advantage, so we really don’t know how he’d deal with AJ.

Usyk v Holyfield (at cruiser)Holyfield by close, maybe majority or split decision in a great fight. I think The Real Deal would be able to work his way in close behind his underrated jab and match Usyk’s workrate with powerful inside combinations. I also believe that Holyfield would have the edge in physical strength – even if he weighed in at 190 pounds. But Usyk’s style and mobility would give him fits. (I think Usyk would do better against the older, more flat-footed heavyweight version of Holyfield than the fresher cruiserweight version.)  

Usyk v JoshuaJoshua by decision or late stoppage.

Usyk v WilderWilder by come-from-behind stoppage.

Usyk v Haye (cruiser)Usyk by up-from-the-canvas decision in an excellent boxing match.

 

WHERE DOES USYK SIT IN THE MYTHICAL RANKINGS?

I know the P4P thing is about interpretation of so many things from how we evaluate fighters who will never face each other to whether you feel the list is a case of accomplishments, how they would fare if weight was equal, is X a better flyweight than Y is a heavyweight, pure judging of each guys attributes, etc., and I know not many give a fig about the list BUT where do you put Usyk?

He’s currently residing in The Ring’s No. 10 spot of a list with some pretty fine fighters, although I think Errol Spence remains too unproven for me to be sitting there. Kell Brook was overrated IMO (his own biggest win being a squeaker past Shawn Porter), plus it was his return fight from GGG, with time out of the ring, shedding weight, etc., so with that being Spence’s defining win thus far, I think he does not belong in any top ten. He has potential, but I like to see things proven. Cheers. – Toby, Helston (hometown of Ruby Rob), Cornwall, UK

I agree that Spence lacks the deep resume that you and I believe a pound-for-pound player should have, but he passes the “eye test” with straight As, and that’s all that matters to some fans and pundits. I can’t really argue too much about it because I think Spence is a stud, and as you mentioned, there is no set criteria for the mythical rankings.

Where would I put Usyk? I think belongs somewhere between No. 3 and No. 5. Other members of the Ring Ratings Panel didn’t believe that he deserved to be rated above Mikey Garcia, who was at No. 4. Some wanted him to land at No. 6 (behind both Garcia and Naoya Inoue, although they acknowledged that his resume is arguably better than the division-hopping duo) because jumping from No. 10 to No. 4 or 5 was too big of a jump. However, the majority of the Panel pushed for a No. 4 or 5 ranking and the Editorial Board went with No. 4.

 

USYK HAS TO BE TOP 3 POUND FOR POUND

Hi Doug,
I don’t think there’s any way Usyk doesn’t deserve to be P4P Top 3 in everyone’s list.
He’s 15 fights in and is now undisputed champion, RING champion, and just cleared out a division of killers.

It’s a more impressive feat than Crawford who unified after 31 fights. Let’s just look at the accomplishments:

Usyk

Beat Glowacki in Poland
Beat Huck in Germany

Beat Breidis in Latvia

Beat Gassiev in Russia

Crawford beat

Thomas Dulorme
Viktor Postol
Julius Indongo

Not taking anything away from Crawford but the two unifications are incomparable in terms of difficulty.

How do you think Usyk would fair as a heavyweight against Wilder or Joshua? Personally, I think he’s a bit too small for either and prob doesn’t have the required power. – Conrad, Sheffield

Time will tell, Conrad. For now, I favor AJ and The Bronze Bomber, but I could change my opinion if he looks good against a couple heavyweight contenders.

I love that Usyk has been a globe-trotting road warrior as a pro. Don’t forget that he beat Michael Hunter, a talented U.S. Olympian, in America (Washington, D.C.) in his 12th pro bout. That’s one of the reasons I was in favor of him jumping all the way from No. 10 to No. 4 in The Ring’s pound-for-pound rankings.

I’m OK with him being behind GGG, Loma and Bud for now. They’ve been at the elite level longer than he has. I know Usyk earned undisputed champion status in half the number of pro bouts that Crawford did, but keep in mind that the American did not have the extensive amateur background that the Ukrainian did. Crawford wasn’t an elite amateur who participated in the top international tournaments, so he needed a longer developmental period at the start of his pro career. I’m not going to hold that against him.

 

STACEY MCKINLEY

Doug,

Why is this clown still allowed to work in the corner?  I was there in Irvine the night he was using smelling salts while working Tito Mendoza’s corner against Librado Andrade. – Hector

Good memory, man. That was in 2004. I believe that McKinley and Mendoza’s co-trainer (both of whom claimed they didn’t know that smelling salts were illegal) were fined and suspended by the California State Athletic Commission, but that was 14 years ago, and Saturday’s WBA 130-pound title bout took place in Nevada.

 

STREAMING BOXING

Hey Dougie,

Do you think more boxing promoters will look to utilize live streaming, either to gain a new audience or monetize existing viewers?

Do you think there are more local boxing shows and promoters in the U.S. now than there were five years ago?

What do you think about three years from now? Is the trend going up or going down…

Keep up the great work on the mailbags! I read them every week! – Tim

Thanks for reading this column and for sharing your questions, Tim.

Do you think more boxing promoters will look to utilize live streaming, either to gain a new audience or monetize existing viewers? I definitely believe more promoters will stream at least some of their shows this year and in 2019. I think ALL of the major U.S. promoters (as well as many club show organizers) will have at least one series (either monthly, bimonthly or quarterly) that they stream live via some platform by 2020. I think the main reason will be to gain exposure for their fighters, but everyone will also be trying to figure out how to make money with the new ventures.

Do you think there are more local boxing shows and promoters in the U.S. now than there were five years ago? I don’t know. I think it’s about the same. It may have fallen off little a bit if by “local” you mean club shows and club-show promoters.

What do you think about three years from now? Is the trend going up or going down… Which trend? Promoters streaming their shows or more local shows and promoters in the U.S.? Three years from now, regardless of the size or influence of the company, I don’t even think a boxing promoter will consider doing or going into business without some kind of streaming platform for their shows.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer

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