What’s Next for Aleksandr Usyk?
On Saturday night, undefeated and undisputed Cruiserweight champion Aleksandr Usyk competed in what could be considered to be the highest profile fight of his professional career.
And, in the end, he shined.
Entering enemy territory, Usyk took on a veteran former champion in the tough-and-gritty Tony Bellew at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Early on, both men seemingly had success, as Usyk repeatedly pumped his jab, while the powerful Bellew landed some notable counterpunches.
As the bout wore on, however, Usyk began to pull away, upping his volume while using incredible footwork and movement to cut off the ring.
Ultimately, the pace he set was just too much for Bellew to handle and Usyk ended up closing the show in the eighth round, flooring Bellew with a brutal left hand.
Following the fight, Bellew confirmed that he would be hanging up his gloves for good, ending a successful career.
For Usyk, however, the future appears to be bright and the former Olympic gold medalist seemingly has many options awaiting him.
The best option for Usyk though would be to move up to Heavyweight and attempt to take over another division.
With the victory over Bellew, Usyk retained all four of his Cruiserweight titles. He won his first 200-pound title in 2016 and has had six successful defenses since, scoring impressive victories over Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev in the process.
Sure, Usyk could remain at Cruiserweight and continue to establish himself as not only of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport but one of the best fighters the division’s ever seen.
However, the better choice, in my opinion, would be to move up in weight where big name and big money fights would await him at heavyweight.
Currently, the Heavyweight division is led by Anthony Joshua, one of the sport’s biggest stars who holds the WBA, WBO and IBF titles, Deontay Wilder, an American born slugger who holds the WBC title and Tyson Fury, a former unified champion.
Joshua most recently defended his titles in September with a stoppage victory over Alexander Povetkin, while Wilder and Fury are set to do battle on December 1, 2018 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California for Wilder’s strap and Fury’s lineal championship on the line.
Entering Usyk into that picture would not only be incredibly exciting for the sport, but it would provide the Ukrainian with massive opportunities. And in fact, it already seems to be an idea, as his promoter stated after his victory over Bellew that he “definitely needs to fight Anthony Joshua.”
In combat sports, those fighters who take risks and dare to be great are often those who are remembered forever.
Usyk’s resume obviously speaks for itself and his accomplishments can’t be denied, but if he were to make the jump up in weight and if he were to succeed in doing so, he would put himself on the path to becoming an all-time great.
Header photo by World Boxing Super Series