The delayed heavyweight ascent of Oleksandr Usyk could soon be announced, and Danny Flexen ponders who the Ukranian will meet
The heavyweight debut for former undisputed world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk was set for May 25 in Maryland, before the Ukranian’s biceps injury scuppered his contest with battle-hardened Carlos Takam. This means Usyk has not fought since November last year, a -round stoppage of Tony Bellew representing his first and only defence of all four major belts down at 200lbs. So with the injury now healed or, according to unbeaten Usyk in an interview with us, “scared away”, who will he face in his long-awaited heavyweight bow in the autumn?
1. Carlos Takam
Given he was the originally scheduled opponent, the Cameroon-born Frenchman remains the favourite to oppose Usyk. A big, rough lump and generally durable, Takam gave Anthony Joshua trouble as a substitute in 2017 and was beating Dereck Chisora before the Londoner uncorked a hell of a right hand to turn the fight around. Came back with a December win over Senad Gashi, and the fact he has not fought since indicates he may be waiting for Usyk.
Chisora wants Joseph Parker, taking two possibilities out of the equation but, with his dominant victory over Dave Allen last week, is it so hard to imagine big Pricey taking this on? The last thing anyone wants to see now the Liverpudlian has got his act together is him being served up to the next potential world title contender. That said, Price will perhaps believe the much smaller man cannot seriously hurt him and that his extra height and reach may prove a match for Usyk’s exemplary movement and workrate.
3. Michael Hunter
I recently rewatched the 2017 WBO cruiserweight title clash between the pair and it was far more competitive than either the official scores or the general consensus would suggest. Hunter started very sharply and was still in the fight after eight rounds, but faded in his first big step up, as Usyk came on strong. Both men have improved since and Hunter is unbeaten in five (four inside schedule) since moving up to heavyweight, in decent company. A rematch may make sense for both men.