Report: Usyk’s Biggest Weakness Ahead of Fury Showdown

Inside Usyk’s Heavyweight Transformation & Biggest Weakness

Oleksandr Usyk’s status as a future Hall of Famer is undeniable. At 37, the Ukrainian fighter has solidified his legacy as one of boxing’s all-time greats. This Saturday, Usyk aims to cement his place in history by becoming the first-ever four-belt heavyweight champion when he faces Britain’s Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia.

“Oleksandr is a superstar,” former opponent Tony Bellew tells BBC Sport.

From Cruiserweight King to Heavyweight Contender

Usyk’s journey to heavyweight supremacy began with an illustrious amateur career, where he clinched European, World, and Olympic gold. In the professional ranks, Usyk quickly made his mark, winning his first cruiserweight world title in his 10th fight. He then unified the division by defeating fellow champions in their own backyards within just five bouts.

“If he beats Tyson, he can go down as one of the greatest fighters ever,” says Bellew.

After defending his undisputed cruiserweight crown against Bellew in November 2018, Usyk moved up to heavyweight, having accomplished everything at cruiserweight. Despite being 6ft 3in, he had fought as a middleweight in his amateur days. Questions arose about whether he had the size to compete with the giants of the heavyweight division, a feat only achieved by Evander Holyfield and David Haye.

Photo IMAGO

Building Up to Heavyweight

To transition to heavyweight, Usyk focused on strength and conditioning, incorporating swimming and full-body workouts into his regimen. After a 10-month hiatus, he made his heavyweight debut against Chazz Witherspoon, adding just over a stone to weigh in at 15st 3lb. Despite conceding nearly two stone to Witherspoon, Usyk secured a stoppage win.

In his next bout, Usyk gained two more pounds for a hard-fought points victory over British gatekeeper Derek Chisora in October 2020. Bellew notes, “He wanted to stand there with ‘Del Boy’ and see how the power was and whether he could take the punch – which he did.”

While Witherspoon and Chisora were not elite-level contenders, Usyk felt ready for a significant challenge against then-champion Anthony Joshua.

Overcoming Size Disadvantages Against Joshua

Usyk’s dedication to his craft is evident. His training regime includes swimming, with his manager, Egis Klimas, noting that Usyk swam 10km nonstop and could hold his breath for four minutes and 40 seconds. Usyk’s party tricks, like juggling and catching coins, highlight his focus on honing his reflexes.

This meticulous preparation paid off against Joshua. Usyk’s resilience and fitness were on full display as he outclassed the Briton over 24 rounds. Weighing in at 15st 11lb for both fights, Usyk seems to have found his optimal weight, maintaining this for his bout against Daniel Dubois in August.

Joshua, significantly heavier by 20lb in the first fight and 23lb in the rematch, struggled to match Usyk’s skill. “I kept saying that Joshua was just too big, but the size was matched by just how good Usyk is,” says Bellew.

Despite Usyk’s success, some still question his heavyweight credentials. Bellew describes Usyk as a “novice heavyweight in some ways,” never having been pushed to his “absolute limit.” However, Bellew acknowledges Usyk’s ability to find an extra gear, particularly in the championship rounds. “Usyk ticked all the boxes in the second AJ fight,” Bellew adds. “Going into round nine or 10, he is behind or it’s level. Then going into the championship rounds, Usyk just finds another level.”

Targeting Usyk’s Body

When negotiations for the Fury fight stalled in April 2023, Usyk turned his attention to WBA mandatory challenger Dubois. In their fight, Dubois landed a body shot in the fifth round that sent Usyk to the canvas, though it was ruled a low blow.

“In my humble opinion, my guy delivered and landed the perfect blow on the beltline and he should be the one facing Tyson Fury,” Dubois’ trainer Don Charles tells BBC Sport.

Charles believes this incident exposed a vulnerability in Usyk. “It was well documented prior to Daniel facing him that Usyk doesn’t like being hit to the body,” he says. “He has an old injury here. There were moments in the second AJ fight where he turned around citing a low blow but it wasn’t.”

Usyk had been dropped by body shots twice in his amateur career, but on both occasions, he rose to his feet and outpointed his opponent. Former world champion Hannah Rankin suggests that Fury’s size might be too much for Usyk. “If he can target the body, it could be Usyk’s undoing,” she says.

Bellew, however, dismisses this notion as a “myth.” He asserts, “I’ve had my ribs broken on numerous occasions. It hurts and it’s not nice, but he’s not weaker than anyone else in the body. Maybe he doesn’t carry as much protection around the midriff than someone like Tyson Fury, but he takes a body shot like everyone else.”

In summary, Usyk’s transformation from cruiserweight king to heavyweight contender has been nothing short of remarkable. His dedication, skill, and ability to overcome size disadvantages make him a formidable opponent for anyone, including Tyson Fury. As Usyk prepares for his historic bout, the world watches to see if he will indeed become one of boxing’s greatest fighters.

Related articles

Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay connected