What’s Next for Aleksandr Usyk?


All photos by Marilyn Paulino/RBRBoxing

Aleksandr Usyk (12-0, 10 KOs) is still the WBO cruiserweight champion after fighting off a tenacious Michael Hunter (12-1, 8 KOs) in support of Vasyl Lomachenko’s main event TKO of Jason Sosa on HBO.

Hunter, the underdog, refused to lay down, jumping on Usyk early. The defending champion was forced to scrap in the opening round and felt his midsection worked over in the second. Usyk retaliated with a body attack of his own in Round 4 and was running away with the bout by the sixth stanza.

Cruisers shouldn’t be able to move the way Usyk does, punches shouldn’t string together as well as his do.

Round after round saw the Ukrainian flash combinations up and down his man. Hunter’s head bobbled around from relentless fists, pinning him to the ropes. Round 12, particularly, was hard to watch.

Usyk’s commitment to consistently reset his feet and circumnavigate around his opponent’s outside foot while reeling off punches at every possible angle separate him from anybody else in the class.

Now having extended his undefeated professional ledger to five years, defeating two ranked opponents in 2016—Krzysztof Glowacki and Thabiso Mchunu—nothing less than a unification match will do.

The 30-year-old Usyk may not have any other choice if he wants to secure a slot back on HBO. There’s nobody near the top of his WBO contender list to be excited about.

One name gaining traction is Mairis Briedis. Briedis just won the vacant WBC Cruiserweight strap last week, outboxing Marco Huck. The new champion is known as a freaky puncher, even taking time to pick on some durable Heavyweights in the past. At 32, he has to be itching for a money fight.

Usyk, alongside his pals and compatriots Lomachenko and Oleksandr Gvozdyk, would be just that. The trio made for excellent viewing on Saturday. They also spent time preparing for this weekend at the the World Boxing Gym in Oxnard, California.

The training grounds happen to be upstate from another Cruiserweight champion, Murat Gassiev. Gassiev is a knockout artist currently trading tips on decapitating men with Gennady Golovkin in Big Bear, CA under the tutelage of Abel Sanchez. The 23-year-old titlist walked right through a proven offensive force in Denis Lebedev four months ago for the IBF crown.

All three men are undefeated. Gassiev and Briedis, a pair of punchers, each make the perfect antithesis for Usyk, the supreme stylist. And neither of them are tied down to any television contracts.

The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board rates these three at the top of the 200-pound division. This means lineage is within Usyk’s reach.

After that, Heavyweight. Per Boxing Scene, Usyk said he can see himself competing in the sport’s maximum weight class by 2018.

Until then, 2017 and Cruiserweight is Usyk’s to rule.


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