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Dougie’s Monday Mailbag (Oleksandr Usyk, Anthony Joshua, Road Warriors)

Is Oleksandr the best heavyweight, the best Road Warrior and P4P No. 1? Photo by Mark Robinson/ Matchroom Boxing
27
Sep

USYK ON HIS WAY TO GREATNESS BUT JOSHUA ISN’T DONE

Hi Dougie, hope you are well.

Great fight and a great performance by Usyk on Saturday. He’s well on his way to greatness and with his accomplishments combined with his god given talent I’ve now got him at No. 2 pound for pound behind only Canelo. There’s a reason very few cruiserweights have moved up to heavyweight and been a big success. Some may go on to win a title at HW but more often than not even a great CW comes unstuck when they meet the very best HW boxers (see David Haye). In fact, you could make an argument that Holyfield is the only cruiserweight who has moved up and transitioned into a truly great heavyweight.

As for Joshua I’m a bit disappointed at some people’s reaction saying he’s been exposed. He’s a great boxer but he just came up against an elite talent and elite boxers can make great boxers look ordinary right? I also don’t think it’s impossible he could win a rematch (should he want it) but I do believe that he can’t outbox Usyk. In my opinion he needs to go back to the AJ of old – the destroyer and try to go to war with him. The relatively limited Chisora showed that a bigger guy could cause Usyk problems by trying to make it into a fight. That’s not to say AJ should fight like a bar room brawler and abandon all technique but he certainly needs to be more aggressive. My main worry with AJ is his mental state after such a loss. Yes, he came back well from a bad loss against Ruiz but the difference here is against Ruiz he was just caught by a big shot and then stopped and despite that he still had the confidence to take the rematch because he still believed he was the better, more skilled fighter. Against Usyk he was completely outboxed and AJ isn’t used to that. For a guy like AJ who has never really been outboxed (at least as a pro) and is used to dominating guys with his jab it has to affect his confidence. It’s telling that as early as the third round he had the look of a confused, worried man.

So here we are and the heavyweight landscape has been turned on its head once again. Fury V Joshua has perhaps lost some of its luster and will possibly never happen now anyway but I still think it’s an exciting period we’re in with great personalities and the potential of several great fights to look forward to over the next few years. What I want to know is how do you think Usyk will do against Fury and Wilder and when (hopefully) the big 4 have all fought each other who will come out on top and be remembered as the best HW of this generation?

Cheers! – Mark from the UK

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mark. Before I respond to any of your points allow me to state that I’m GLAD “the heavyweight landscape has been turned on its head once again,” as you stated. I hope it continues to turn. I hope every division turns on its head. We need action in boxing. We need quality matchups and significant, high stakes fights in boxing. We need new blood, new faces, new stars. Props to Joshua for taking care of his WBO mandatory after the Fury showdown fell out. He could have dropped the WBO belt. He could have faced a much easier WBA mandatory (someone like Trevor Bryan or Mahmoud Charr) while he bided his time until the Fury-Wilder 3 outcome. But he didn’t. He took on a worthy challenger in Usyk. He took on a fellow Olympic gold medalist, a former undisputed cruiserweight champ, a Ring-rated heavyweight contender who was No. 4 in Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound rankings. And because AJ was facing a REAL challenge, Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing was able to promote a REAL event that filled the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and made for an unforgettable atmosphere.

I don’t think Joshua is any less of a star with two or three losses on his record. He fights more quality opponents than the other heavyweight standouts, so he should be allowed to have a few losses. The fans that would write him off or try to diminish his abilities/accomplishments are not real fans (or they’re not very intelligent fans – please tell them I said that). So, yeah, I still want to see Fury vs. Joshua. I don’t care if Fury beats Wilder a second time, I still want to see the American puncher vs. the likes of Andy Ruiz or Dillian White. If Joshua comes back and beats Usyk in a rematch, I still want to see Usyk fight the likes of Joe Joyce, Joseph Parker and the rematch with Michael Hunter.

If we get these fights, maybe we can look back 10 years from now and ascertain who the best heavyweight of this generation was. Most fans believe that Lennox Lewis, who had to rebound from two KO losses, was the best heavyweight of the last generation because he fought nearly all of the top heavyweights of the 1990s and early 2000s. That’s how it should work. But if the current top four fails to engage in a proper round robin, as well as face the top contenders, who’s the best will be up for debate; it will be a matter of opinion.

Great fight and a great performance by Usyk on Saturday. He’s well on his way to greatness and with his accomplishments combined with his god given talent I’ve now got him at No. 2 pound for pound behind only Canelo. You can certainly make an argument for him being No. 2, even No. 1. Personally, I think the top three should be Canelo, Usyk and Inoue – in any order. Mythical rankings aside, I think Usyk is already worthy of the hall of fame, so he’s definitely pointed toward greatness.

You could make an argument that Holyfield is the only cruiserweight who has moved up and transitioned into a truly great heavyweight. That’s not an argument, that’s a fact.

As for Joshua I’m a bit disappointed at some people’s reaction saying he’s been exposed. Those people are idiots. Please tell them that I said that.

He’s a great boxer but he just came up against an elite talent and elite boxers can make great boxers look ordinary right? Correct. Joshua faced an amateur legend and a battle-tested top-five pound-for-pound talent. It was not going to be an easy night for the British superstar.

I also don’t think it’s impossible he could win a rematch (should he want it) but I do believe that he can’t outbox Usyk. He wants it. That’s how he is. I agree that he can’t outbox Usyk, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t win on points.

Joshua had some success vs. Usyk when he targeted the challenger’s body. Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing

In my opinion he needs to go back to the AJ of old – the destroyer and try to go to war with him. That version of AJ worked against domestic level heavyweights and fringe contenders, but it would likely be a disaster vs. elite-level boxer like Usyk. We can’t ask Joshua to imitate Dereck Chisora, who’s natural style (and mentality) is to be a pressure fighter. Joshua just needs to take a page out of young (or old) George Foreman’s book and learn how to properly walk a man down with a power jab. He can still be a boxer, but he needs to figure out how to close the distance on a mover and he needs the confidence to punch with bad intentions when he’s in range (especially to the body).

My main worry with AJ is his mental state after such a loss. He’ll be fine. You can tell that he was raised right and that he’s well adjusted. He owns his losses and setbacks and tries his best to learn from them. That’s all any of can do.

Yes, he came back well from a bad loss against Ruiz but the difference here is against Ruiz he was just caught by a big shot and then stopped and despite that he still had the confidence to take the rematch because he still believed he was the better, more skilled fighter. That’s not the narrative that I heard following the Ruiz loss. I kept hearing about how Ruiz was all wrong for AJ, stylistically and psychologically speaking, and that he’d never beat the pudgy puncher. Now we’re being told that Usyk is all wrong for him, which was true on Sept. 25 but it may not be at a later date. They gotta fight the fights.

Against Usyk he was completely outboxed and AJ isn’t used to that. Nobody who is used to winning, apart from legit KO artists like Julian Jackson and Deontay Wilder, is used to being completely outboxed. However, although I had Usyk winning nine rounds, I didn’t view Joshua as being completely out of the fight. I thought he boxed well from Round 5-8 and had some moments in Rounds 9 and 10.

For a guy like AJ who has never really been outboxed (at least as a pro) and is used to dominating guys with his jab it has to affect his confidence. Well, firstly, he was being outboxed by Wladimir Klitschko for a number of rounds before his late rally, and he’s dealt with adversity and difficult styles before Ruiz and Usyk, but there’s no doubt that his confidence was shook during the fight on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be shook next time. AJ made some adjustments during the fight (obviously not enough) and he can make adjustments between now and the rematch.

It’s telling that as early as the third round he had the look of a confused, worried man. Shoot, after TWO rounds I Tweeted that AJ was looking at Usyk the way I used to look at the Rubik’s Cube.

 

THE GREATEST ROAD WARRIOR?

Hello Dougie,

I thought this was going to be a major fight with the winner automatically getting into the HOF.

I’ve to say I doubted Usyk when he moved up to heavyweight because he looked too small.

He was superb, he beat AJ cleanly & I can’t even hate on that cause I was supporting AJ.

Olympic Gold medal, eight straight fights on the road, won all his titles on the road I believe. Is Usyk the greatest road warrior in history?

I think AJ needs to beat Usyk & one of Wilder/Fury to get into the HOF. Thoughts? – Tofunmi

That sounds fair, but it should be noted that Joshua has faced more quality heavyweights/legit contenders than Wilder and Fury have combined.

I thought this was going to be a major fight with the winner automatically getting into the HOF. Usyk may have done just that with his clear decision victory.

I’ve to say I doubted Usyk when he moved up to heavyweight because he looked too small. You’re not alone. I had my doubts, too, but not because of his size. I just wasn’t overly impressed with his performances vs. Chazz Witherspoon and Dereck Chisora. But he was obviously at his best for AJ.

He was superb, he beat AJ cleanly & I can’t even hate on that cause I was supporting AJ. Why would anyone hate on Usyk, even if they love Joshua? The dude is way too cool and happy-go-lucky for anyone to dislike him. I think boxing is lucky to have a heavyweight championship player who is as fun and charismatic as Usyk.

Olympic Gold medal, eight straight fights on the road, won all his titles on the road I believe. Is Usyk the greatest road warrior in history? He’s the most successful Road Warrior among active fighters, but I don’t know about all time. You gotta understand that for decades (the 1960s through the ’90s) the only way sub-lightweight fighters from Mexico and Central/South America could make decent paydays was to travel to Asia and occasionally to the U.S. So little giants from the great Eder Jofre to Miguel Canto to Hilario Zapata to Gilberto Roman to Chiquita Gonzalez to Daniel Zaragoza all made regular trips to Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. All but two of Roman’s 115-pound title bouts took place in his native Mexico, and he compiled a 12-3-1 title bout record fighting in Japan, France, Argetina, Thailand, Spain, the U.S. and Korea. Zaragoza had 20 WBC junior featherweight title bouts over two reigns (vs. top opposition) and NONE of them took place in his native Mexico. The hall of famer compiled a 13-4-3 title bout record fighting in the U.S., Korea, Italy, Japan and France.

Two of my all-time favorite lightweight champs, Ismael Laguna and the man who succeeded the Panamanian legend, Ken Buchanan, fought all over the glove (before, during and after their world title reigns). Laguna fought in Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, France, Puerto Rico, Argentina, the Philippines, Jamaica, and Ecuador, as well the U.S. (of course). Buchanan, a brilliant Scottish boxer, fought in the U.S. (NYC and L.A., just like Laguna), Spain, South Africa, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Japan and Zimbabwe. Now that’s INTERNATIONAL!

Former WBA/IBF 130-pound titleholder Brian Mitchell was a true Road Warrior. Photo / Ring Magazine

Due to political circumstances, South African hall of famer Brian Mitchell had to defend his 130-pound title outside of his home country during the 1980s and early ’90s. Mitchell was 13-0 in title bouts that took place outside of South Africa.

One of the great middleweight champs, Carlos Monzon of Argentina, fought 12 of his 15 title bouts outside of his home country, winning them all in renown capitals and major metropolitan areas such as Rome, Monte Carlo, Paris, Copenhagen and New York City.

So, I don’t know if Usyk is the best Road Warrior ever, but he is definitely in good/great company.

 

THE REMATCH

Hi, Dougie! Hope you and yours are doing well.

What a night of boxing! That’s exactly what boxing needs. When we have a big sold-out arena, a good card, a spectacular fight in the main event, and good (not perfect, but fair) judging, we have everything our beloved sport needs AND deserves.

I scored the fight 8-4 (116-112), but I’m okay even with 9-3. Joshua was outclassed, outworked, and outsmarted by a WAY better boxer. Unlike the first Ruiz fight, Joshua didn’t seem to have the solid upper hand any moment during the fight. He had some decent moments, but Usyk took everything the giant Brit launched and kept moving forward. He bossed Joshua, with absolutely no controversy.

My question is: What are your thoughts about the rematch? First, Joshua lost his titles TWICE in his last 4 fights. I know there’s a clause, but I think he really don’t deserve to receive a direct second chance to regain his belts. He should drop back to the 5th or 6th place of the line. Second, how do you think a rematch would go? What adjustments he needs to make in order to have more chances? And psychologically speaking, do you think this loss can cause more damage than Ruiz’s?

Justo to finish, Usyk’s destination is Canastota! And I’m looking forward to what the heavyweight division is gonna offer through the next years. Regards – André / Brasil

Hopefully, it offers a showdown for the undisputed championship, not too many contractual rematches, a fighting champ and top contenders who are willing to face each other to earn their shots.

What are your thoughts about the rematch? Usyk agreed to it, so he’s got to honor the contract he signed if Joshua chooses to enact that clause (and we know he will). If Usyk didn’t want to deal with back-to-back bouts with Joshua he could have instructed his team to force a purse bid (WBO rules forbid rematch clauses for mandatory challenges that go to purse bids), but he didn’t, so it is what it is. I’d rather see Usyk go straight to the winner of Fury-Wilder 3, but you and I both know that boxing’s bulls__t business model and politics will prevent an undisputed showdown, so I’m OK with Usyk-Joshua II and I’m not going to count AJ out like 90% of my Twitter timeline seems to be doing.

With or without the belts, Anthony Joshua is still a superstar (whether his haters want to admit it or not).

First, Joshua lost his titles TWICE in his last 4 fights. So what? He’s still the got the deepest resume among active heavyweights and he’s still a f__kin’ superstar. Canelo Alvarez is the ONLY active fighter who comes close to Joshua in terms of mega-event-and-mega-revenue-generating power. If you don’t know by now that boxing is WAY more business than sport, you’re never gonna get it, but I’ll make it plain for ya: the money man calls the shots. Period.

I know there’s a clause, but I think he really don’t deserve to receive a direct second chance to regain his belts. Who’s more deserving? Dillian Whyte, who’s one bout removed from being KTFO by a 41-year-old veteran? Joseph Parker, who looked like ass narrowly outpointing Dereck Chisora in his last bout? Andy Ruiz, who is one bout removed from being outclassed by AJ, an up-from-the-canvas decision over Chris Arreola that made the faded veteran look like he WASN’T shot? Don’t tell me the winner of Fury-Wilder 3 because you KNOW that ain’t gonna happen.

He should drop back to the 5th or 6th place of the line. Why? He’s still faced more live bodies than anyone else in the heavyweight division. So he lost to Usyk. Is Usyk a chump? Was the Ukrainian southpaw viewed as a no-hoper coming into the fight? No, Usyk is a fellow Olympic gold medalist, a former undisputed cruiserweight champ and 2018 Fighter of the Year, as well as No. 4 in The Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound rankings. Oleksandr was LIVE! Joshua has also faced and defeated a hall-of-fame enshrined former unified champ (Klitschko), an undefeated titleholder (Parker), a former titleholder (Povetkin) and Ring-rated contenders, including Whyte, Charles Martin, Dominic Breazeale, Kubrat Pulev and Ruiz (in their rematch). Only Whyte has come close to facing the number of quality heavyweights as AJ.

Second, how do you think a rematch would go? I think Joshua can make it a closer fight and I won’t count him out of winning it, even though I might pick Usyk.

What adjustments he needs to make in order to have more chances? He’s got to get his jab working early in the fight, apply smart pressure from the get-go, work the body whenever he’s in range and punch with more conviction/authority. Easier said than done, of course.

And psychologically speaking, do you think this loss can cause more damage than Ruiz’s? Only time will tell, but I’ve got no reason to question Joshua’s psychological makeup.

 

OLEKSANDR THE GREAT

Hey Dougie,

Now that Usyk has toppled one giant how do you see him in against either Fury or Wilder? – Rodemeyer

I’d favor Fury by decision because I think he knows how to impose his size and mass upon a smaller boxer and gradually break them down, and I’d pick Usyk to take Wilder to school even though I know that the Bronze Bomber could end the bout with a single punch (but that’s true in any of his matchups).

 

“THE CAT” IS P4P NO. 1

Assalaam alaykum Mr. Fischer,

I believe the first time I ever wrote into the mailbag was to sing the praises of Oleksandr Usyk and promise great things from the phenomenal Ukrainian. I don’t know that I’m surprised at all, just eager to hear what the world has to say about the man who’s clearly the best heavyweight in the world after being indisputably the best cruiserweight.

I know there are detractors who believe that both Fury and Wilder were and remain better than AJ, but the simple fact is that neither has faced anything remotely resembling Joshua’s opposition. Usyk currently has a better resume at heavyweight (particularly if you count his defeat of Michael Hunter) than Wilder by my estimation.

I don’t see a way (other than the proverbial puncher’s chance) that AJ beats Usyk in a rematch. Usyk himself was clear that he believed he could have knocked Joshua out, but that he believed victory was more assured by following his trainers’ gameplan. It was a masterpiece, and it wasn’t even “the best Usyk.”

I might quibble with that last bit. Frankly I don’t know what Usyk’s best performance has been, and I doubt that we’ve seen the peak of his prime (which is clearly still here, and likely to last longer at heavyweight). In spite of Canelo’s recent feats, Usyk is clearly pound for pound number 1 in my rankings. What say you? Where do you think the Ring panel puts him?

What’s next (or what follows the rematch) for the artist formerly known as the Cat? Peace, Doug. I hope that you and yours are well. Ma salaam. – John

We’re Blessed and all good, John.

If Usyk repeats against Joshua I think there will be a lot of clamor for an undisputed showdown with whoever holds the WBC belt at that time from fans and media, as well as a lot of bluster from the industry Powers That Be, but it won’t happen. I think Fury will retain the green belt and defend it against interim beltholder Dillian Whyte, and Wilder will battle Andy Ruiz for PBC supremacy. That will leave Usyk to his mandatory challengers, which will include Joe Joyce (WBO) and Michael Hunter (WBA), and I’m OK with both of those matchups.

I don’t know that I’m surprised at all, just eager to hear what the world has to say about the man who’s clearly the best heavyweight in the world after being indisputably the best cruiserweight. I think it’s safe to say that the Boxing World has Usyk Fever. If Usyk gets the opportunity to fight on a major U.S. network like ESPN or FOX, and the mainstream media is exposed to him, I believe he can crossover to an extent. He’s got that kind of personality.

I know there are detractors who believe that both Fury and Wilder were and remain better than AJ, but the simple fact is that neither has faced anything remotely resembling Joshua’s opposition. FACTS!

Usyk currently has a better resume at heavyweight (particularly if you count his defeat of Michael Hunter) than Wilder by my estimation. Yeah, it’s close. But you’re probably right, a clear decision over AJ is worth a little more than two KOs of Luis Ortiz, and a draw and TKO loss to Tyson Fury.

I don’t see a way (other than the proverbial puncher’s chance) that AJ beats Usyk in a rematch. Joshua probably knows better than anyone that he’s not going to land a single “one-hitter-quitter” on Usyk, but I’m also sure that he realizes that the body shots he landed in some of the middle rounds got to the challenger and the “touching” straight rights that landed were able to cut up the Ukrainian’s face. So, he might just try to do more damage in the rematch and see where that takes him, maybe a late stoppage, maybe a decision win, maybe another decision loss, maybe he runs out of gas and gets stopped late by Usyk. Who knows? They gotta fight the fight.

Usyk himself was clear that he believed he could have knocked Joshua out, but that he believed victory was more assured by following his trainers’ gameplan. That was probably the smart thing to do, but I hope he goes for the stoppage in the rematch.

It was a masterpiece, and it wasn’t even “the best Usyk.” Usyk says we haven’t seen his best and I believe him.

In spite of Canelo’s recent feats, Usyk is clearly pound for pound number 1 in my rankings. What say you? I think the top spot is debatable. Canelo’s got a slight edge in my mind, though, due to his longevity, greater activity, the Golovkin bouts, and facing the top fighters in three weight classes since 2019.

Where do you think the Ring panel puts him? No. 1 or 2.

 

PERFECT MAIN EVENT

That fight is exactly why I love boxing. Wow. Just completely great and no funny business from the judges.

MM That Usyk vs HW RJJ

That Usyk vs Prime Holyfield

That AJ vs Wilder

Matt on Merritt Island

The judges got it right which made the incredible atmosphere of the event (props to AJ, Matchroom and the British fans) even more special. I scored it 117-111, or nine rounds to three (Rounds 5, 6 and 8 went to Joshua in case you were wondering), but I could see 116-112 or even 115-113. I thought Rounds 9 and 10 were competitive. Maybe if one gave AJ the benefit of every doubt, he wins those two rounds.

Your Mythical Matchups:

That Usyk vs HW RJJUsyk by close UD

That Usyk vs Prime HolyfieldReal Deal by late stoppage or close UD (in a great fight)

That AJ vs WilderWilder by mid-rounds KO

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and join him, Tom Loeffler, Coach Schwartz and friends via Tom’s or Doug’s IG Live every Sunday.