Oleksandr Usyk could be the man to derail the Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury super fight the boxing world wanted to see.
The Ukrainian faces AJ at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane stadium in September with the WBO, WBA (super), IBF and IBO heavyweight titles on the line. If he wins, he catapults himself into one of the most lucrative positions and determinants of boxing history.
Many fight fans see Usyk and Deontay Wilder as obstacles in the undisputed AJ vs Tyson Fury title fight that they all want.
But there is magic in Usyk vs Joshua. It is Olympic gold against Olympic gold. He’s a unified heavyweight champion against an undisputed king of cruiserweight, who has stepped up his weight class.
Usyk, however, is not a simple obstacle. When Joshua won a super heavyweight gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics and won his hometown heroes reception, Usyk quietly won gold at the same heavyweight event at the same event. Naturally, that made a lot less headlines.
Usyk edged out Artur Beterbiev – who is now a unified light heavyweight champion – Tervel Pulev – Kubrat’s younger brother – and finally Italian Clemente Russo, whom he dominated 6-3 in the final.
Usyk then turned pro and retired from amateur boxing with an astonishing record of 335-15.
The 34-year-old is now 18-0 in his professional career and, having taken the cruiserweight by storm, plans to cleanse the land of giants.
He was only a world champion in his tenth fight and arguably the biggest scalp on his record when he retired was British fan favorite Tony Bellew.
And Bellew, who lost his cruiserweight title to Usyk, told talkSPORT that Joshua is going to have a very, very difficult evening, especially since he will be coached by Vasyl Lomachenko’s father Anatoly.
“It’s a tough fight, I’m not going to lie. It’s a very, very hard fight.
“If anything, it just got even more difficult because Usyk has now returned with Lomachenko’s father.
“It makes it even more difficult because they are going to create a game plan that is going to try to deny everything Anthony Joshua does right.
“They will try to take everything away from him.
“This is what Usyk does so well. It takes away your strengths before seeking to implement its own strengths.
“And by taking away your strength, you are lost. The things he does with his feet – he’s exceptional.
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“So I think it’s a very tough fight, I think it’s really dangerous.”
Speaking from experience, Bellew says Usyk has the mental and technical skills to break down the best.
“He mentally exhausted me in our fight by constantly having his front foot close to mine. That doesn’t sound a lot. But it’s a mental pressure he puts on you, not a physical one.
“He wouldn’t get involved in any wrestling match with me. Every time we approached, I would dig it right up to the body.
“He’s vicious and brilliant,” he added.
Usyk has had two heavyweight bouts and managed both outings, most recently against another tough Briton in Dereck Chisora. The man’s pedigree cannot be questioned, this fight is not a placeholder.