Oleksandr Usyk answers some but not all questions in beating Dereck Chisora, while George Kambosos Jr becomes mandatory for Teofimo Lopez by vanquishing Lee Selby
In the Wembley Arena main event, promoted by Matchroom and broadcast on Sky Sports Box Office, he vast majority of the pressure was on Oleksandr Usyk. The imperious Ukranian World and Olympic amateur champion had translated that dominance to the paid code, unifying the major cruiserweight titles en route to the World Boxing Super Series trophy, before ensuring Tony Bellew’s career ended in stoppage defeat. Despite labouring somewhat against late sub Chazz Witherspoon in his heavyweight debut a year ago, Usyk was still widely expected to prevail here against tough and in-form veteran Dereck Chisora. The WBO mandatory contender to Anthony Joshua had to do so in good fashion, however, with questions being raised about his status as a ‘genuine’ heavyweight. Little was expected of “Del Boy” beyond making it an entertaining scrap.
The Finchley man certainly held up his end of the bargain, showing urgency from the opening bell. He won the first round for me, harrying Usyk to the ropes and into corners and winging hooks to head and body. Chisora also mauled and wrestled when inside, making things as uncomfortable as he could for his smooth-boxing adversary, who preferred to move laterally and take an extended look at what he had to overcome.
Chisora seemed to slow a tad from round two and took a sharp left hand, as Usyk began to warm up. It was as if he’d concluded his scouting report, identified the optimum strategy and would now set to work. There was method to the typical Chisora ‘madness’. He rolled his way in smartly at times but, beyond that frantic opener, was mostly outmanoeuvred and countered by a man significantly faster, more skilled and agile. Muscular and thick set, Chisora must have found being frequently made to miss both tiring and dispiriting.
Once Usyk got onto the front foot, albeit sporadically in round four, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Chisora. The man Kiev from had most of the advantages, apart from size and power, but perhaps the most pronounced was his speed of foot, narrowly ahead of his speed of thought.
Chisora enjoyed a better round in the seventh, but was hurt for the first time towards the end, a rapid-fire combination causing him to labour back to his stool. Usyk pressed his advantage in the next, Chisora did not appear fully recovered. Usyk was still moving, but lingered in the pocket a little longer and put more weight into his shots. Now, it was Chisora trying to fend off his clinical assailant.
Chisora looked exhausted by the ninth, a testament both to his admirable effort and the impressive job Usyk had done in making him miss and pay. To his eternal credit, Dereck never stopped trying to turn things around. He was outclassed but not out-manned. That said, the unanimous verdict in Usyk’s favour - 117-112 and 115-113 (twice) - was predictable from the middle rounds.
As for Usyk, he proved he could take clean shots from a good-size heavyweight without buckling, he was able to hurt a bigger man and that his mobility and outstanding skill-set was more than enough to compensate for a comparative strength deficit against a fringe contender. That said, he was unable to get rid of a man who has been stopped in the past, and did not dominate. Will his unique blend be enough against a Joshua or Tyson Fury, though? On this showing, the jury is still out.
In the chief support, Barry’s former IBF featherweight ruler Lee Selby vied with unbeaten Australian George Kambosos Jr in a final eliminator for that sanctioning body; the winner would become mandatory for Teofimo Lopez, fresh from his upset of Vasyl Lomachenko but most likely moving up to 140lbs. Selby had the pedigree, slick skills and experience, but Kambosos was fresh, ambitious and explosive. It was finely poised, but the younger man - by almost six years – took over in the second half of the battle to earn a surprisingly split decision, with scores of 118-110 and 116-112, against a 115-114 for the Welshman.
Selby certainly did not appear out-sized in the ring and circled the perimeter early, popping out his jab. Kambosos looked fast-handed, in bursts, but a little stiff. Selby had completed the 12-round championship distance on 11 occasions, while Kambosos had never ventured beyond the 10th. The Aussie seemed to be pacing himself early on, fighting economically, while Selby was a little more active, confident in his ability to stay the course.
Kambosos began to make some headway in the third, unleashing quick combinations and pinning the slippery Selby to the ropes. Noticing that Kambosos was less effective going backwards, Selby adapted, attacking and retreating, rather than staying on the outside. It was a composed, disciplined performance from Lee early on, against a dangerous but at-times-predictable foe. Kambosos was persistent, though and by halfway the contest was very much in the balance.
From the halfway mark, Kambosos increased the pace and cut the ring off better. Selby responded valiantly and they exchanged big right hands before the close of round eight – which appeared to end a minute early.
George’s effort in the later rounds belied his lack of experience as he took the fight to Selby, shrugging off the counters and attempting to land the telling shots. His handspeed and urgency looked pivotal.