One of the criticisms of some fans since the sport of Boxing began trying to resume under the circumstances of COVID-19 back in June of this year has been a view that the fights that have been presented have been fights that have lacked public demand. Of course, one of, if not the most consistent themes of this observer’s work throughout 2020 here on The Boxing Truth®️ has been not only the circumstances of the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic as it relates to Boxing, but also the acknowledgment that many of the sport’s top fighters remain sidelined due both to health concerns of the potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus, but also financial interests in not wanting to forgo a portion of revenue by competing in front of no spectators outside of essential personnel and also not being willing to take a pay cut in what they would normally earn on a per fight basis when the sport is in its normal active state.
While this is something that I have touched upon frequently in recent months as the epidemic has worsened, and though yours truly can understand and sympathize with the fan/reader in this at times becoming repetitive, it is unfortunately the reality of the sport currently and to ignore it would be a disservice to not only the sport itself, but also the readers who know this observer for being unbiased and objective in the way I have covered the sport of Boxing and by extension combat sports over the last two decades. What sometimes can get overlooked however, is the risk fighters who remain sidelined for the reasons I have explained take in terms of their career.
Obviously, there is the risk of alienating fans by not competing, but there is also the risk to a fighter’s ability. What do I mean by ability? Much like any other skill one acquires and hones, the more one practices their craft, the better they become at it. When an athlete in any sport is sidelined either because of injuries or other reasons for a significant period of time, the question that is often asked is will the time off do more harm than good. While the circumstances of the ongoing epidemic is unprecedented, top fighters throughout the sport have tough decisions to make. The decisions of risk to their health un terms of exposure, but also the risk that sitting out might have on their athletic ability as well as their reflexes and timing by not competing and in some cases not being able to train and spare in a gym.
As we have begun to see with the recent unification bout between Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez however, some fighters have made the decision to forgo their financial interests to compete to hopefully improve their standing in the sport when such time comes that COVID-19 is less of an issue and sports and hopefully, the rest of the world can return to a semblance of normalcy. Two such fighters will follow the lead of Lomachenko and Lopez by meeting in a high stakes Heavyweight bout on Saturday, October 31st at the Wembley Arena in London, England as undefeated former undisputed Cruiserweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk will meet longtime Heavyweight contender and former world title challenger Dereck Chisora in an encounter, which could have implications on the Heavyweight division heading into 2021.
Usyk, the former undisputed Cruiserweight world champion made his Heavyweight debut in October of last year scoring a one-sided seventh round stoppage of one time contender Chazz Witherspoon. When the native of Kiev, Ukraine relinquished his Cruiserweight crown to set his sights on the Heavyweight division, he was automatically moved into position as the World Boxing Organization (WBO) mandatory challenger per his being not only the WBO world champion in the Cruiserweight division, but also the undisputed world champion at the time he vacated the championship.
While Usyk appears to be in line to face current unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO world champion Anthony Joshua at some point in the near future should Joshua successfully retain his crown against current IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in December, he has chosen to risk his position as the WBO mandatory rather than sit out on the sidelines while the circumstances of COVID-19 continue. As has been the case for many fighters since the COVID-19 crisis began, Usyk would have probably competed earlier in 2020 if circumstances had allowed him to do so. It is in part because of the circumstances however, that two questions will be asked of Usyk in this fight.
The first question is what effect if any will being inactive for over one year have on him in this fight. Perhaps an even more compelling question that will be asked of him is can he deal with a Heavyweight that is likely to put pressure on him early. Although Usyk is dominant in his victory over Chazz Witherspoon, Witherspoon was not really able to provide him with much of a test in his first fight as a Heavyweight and at times the fight frankly resembled a sparring session. This is not likely to happen against his opponent in this fight Dereck Chisora.
As most know, Chisora has had a long tenure as a Heavyweight contender including challenging then WBC world champion Vitali Klitschko in February 2012 in losing a twelve round unanimous decision. There have been times where Chisora has looked spectacular, but there have also been times where he has appeared sluggish and unable to compete effectively when he has stepped up against the elite level in the Heavyweight division. He has however, won the European Heavyweight championship in his career and will come into this fight on a three fight winning streak. The question in regard to Chisora as this fight approaches will be what version of Dereck Chisora will show up. Will it be the version of the consistent pressure fighter that looks to back his opponent up and break his opponent down with power punches as a fight progresses, or will this be the lethargic and inconsistent version of a fighter that many felt would be a consistent player in the world championship picture when he came on the scene several years ago.
Some may contend that at thirty-six years old and after forty-one professional fights, this may be Chisora’s last chance to earn an opportunity to challenge for a world championship again. How does Chisora get it done? This is obviously a question that many will ask and the answer is indeed easier said than done, but in thinking of how the veteran contender could have success in this fight one word consistently came to mind… Pressure…
At his best, Dereck Chisora is a fighter who likes to get on the inside and work an opponent’s body as he is often facing opposition that is taller than him and who outweigh him. Although standing in 6’1 ½ Chisora may be viewed as a small Heavyweight by today’s standard, in some ways he will be the bigger man in this fight, despite giving up two inches in reach to Usyk. Chisora has after all competed as a Heavyweight for his entire career and has done so against many top contenders and elite level fighters.
Even though this does not diminish the accomplishments that Oleksandr Usyk has made in his career as a Cruiserweight, he has yet to be tested by aggressive Heavyweight that can punch as Chisora has demonstrated in scoring knockouts in twenty-three of his thirty-two career wins. While one should not assume that Chisora necessarily has an advantage in terms of punching power if not one as a natural Heavyweight, it is crucial that Chisora put pressure on Usyk from the outset and find a way to make him uncomfortable. Despite scoring knockouts in thirteen of his seventeen career wins, it is hard to envision Oleksandr Usyk being willing to stand and trade blow for blow with a Heavyweight that can punch at least at this stage of his career in the division. Based on this, it is not difficult to think that Usyk will look to out box Chisora an attempt to tire him over the course of the fight before perhaps trying to get a stoppage in the late rounds. Whether or not Usyk will be able to keep Chisora at bay for twelve rounds remains to be seen.
In what has been a very frustrating year for everyone in and out of sports for obvious reasons, this fight has the element they normally makes most bouts in Boxing and by extension all combat sports interesting. The element of the unknown. One may look no further than June of last year when Andy Ruiz, who stepped into a fight against Anthony Joshua in New York’s Madison Square Garden on short notice was able to score a dramatic upset that many did not see coming. Although Ruiz went on to lose a decision to Joshua in their rematch late last year, he proved an old adage that this observer truly believes in, which is you just don’t know what will happen when two fighters enter the ring to do battle. Whether or not Dereck Chisora will be able to pull off what some may view as unlikely surprise remains to be seen, but this observer has been around long enough to know always expect the unexpected.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Usyk vs. Chisora takes place on Saturday, October 31st at the Wembley Arena in London, England. The fight as well as its full undercard can be seen in the United States and several international countries on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT (U. S. Time.) For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/smart TVs, availability around the world, and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the card can be seen on a pay-per-view basis on Sky Box Office beginning at 6 PM (local UK time) for £19.95. For more information including availability in your area and to order please visit: https://www.sky.com/boxoffice/usyk-chisora. Check your local listings internationally.
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