August 2023 in the sport of Boxing will come to a close on Saturday, August 26th with the spotlight firmly focused on the Heavyweight division. In some ways, this day will look at both the present and what could well be the future, which can all be seen here in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+.
The marquee attraction of the day will take place in Wroclaw, Poland as undefeated unified WBO/IBF/IBO/WBA Heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk will make the second defense of his crown against WBA number one Heavyweight contender Daniel Dubois in Wrocław Stadium. This fight is the first for Usyk following two decision wins over Anthony Joshua in 2021 and 2022 where he won and then successfully retained the unified Heavyweight crown. While many had expected that Usyk's next fight following his rematch against Joshua in August of last year would be a unification bout with undefeated WBC world champion Tyson Fury for what would be the Undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world, unfortunately due to elements involving the business of Boxing, that fight did not materialize.
Instead, Usyk will be turning his attention to fulfilling one of his mandatory defense obligations of one of the four world championships he currently holds by facing the WBA's mandatory challenger Daniel Dubois. Although some may dismiss this fight as a mere mandatory, in that sometimes those who earn opportunities to fight for a world championship by being mandated by a sanctioning organization as it's top contender in a given weight class, does not always have significant public interest, this could be a dangerous fight for the undefeated champion.
It was not long ago when Daniel Dubois was considered one of the sport's feared rising "Knockout Artists." Dubois carried a record of 15-0, with 14 Knockouts into what was a highly anticipated clash with then fellow undefeated "Knockout Artist" and former Olympic Silver medalist Joe Joyce in November of 2020. Dubois would suffer the lone defeat of his career by being knocked out by Joyce in the tenth round in a fight where he suffered a broken left eye socket. Since that setback, Dubois has won four straight fights, all by knockout including a fourth round knockout of previously unbeaten Trevor Bryan in June of last year where he earned Interim/Regular champion status in the WBA's Heavyweight ratings, which in short made him the number one contender.
The question going into this fight will be whether Dubois will be able to deal with the angles and overall skill of Usyk. While Oleksandr Usyk is the favorite going into this title defense, he has had some difficulty in some bouts since moving to Heavyweight after becoming undisputed champion as a Cruiserweight. Usyk's fight with longtime Heavyweight contender Dereck Chisora in October 2020 can serve as an example of Usyk having trouble against a Heavyweight that was able to apply consistent pressure on him, which is something that Anthony Joshua was not able to do in two fights and given Dubois' punching power, it will be interesting to see if he has studied Usyk's fight against Chisora that he could try to implement a similar strategy. It is also important to keep in mind that Usyk has not scored a knockout since moving to Heavyweight and, despite remaining unbeaten and becoming unified world champion in the division, questions do remain in regard to his punching power as a Heavyweight.
With a possible unification bout to become Undisputed Heavyweight champion of the world still no closer to becoming a reality, Usyk must remain focused on the task at hand even if some are dismissing this fight as a mere mandatory or "Stay Busy" fight. If he is not focused, Daniel Dubois does have the power to pull off what would be considered an upset, despite being the natural Heavyweight and bigger fighter.
As Usyk-Dubois will focus on the current landscape of the Heavyweight division in terms of the world championship picture, August 26th will also provide a look at a Heavyweight contender that could well be the future of the division. This observer is referring to the undefeated "Knockout Artist" Jared Anderson.
Anderson, who is coming off of the first decision win in his career in July where he was forced to go ten full rounds in his fifthteenth professional fight against former IBF Heavyweight world champion Charles Martin, who had taken the fight on short notice. A fight that ended Anderson's fourteen fight knockout streak, which began his career, he was still impressive in scoring a convincing ten round unanimous decision in his hometown of Toledo, OH.
Now, a little more than one month after that fight, Anderson is getting back in the ring to face veteran Andrii Rudenko in a scheduled ten round bout at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, OK. Although some may view a fighter competing so soon after a fight in which they had to go ten competitive rounds as too soon to be back in the ring, in actuality, it is a method that many fighters used to do on a regular basis from rising contenders as Anderson is to even world champions in decades past.
The biggest detriment to any fighter in any combat sport on any level is inactivity and while a fighter will obviously risk their standing every other they compete, there is an old adage that yours truly believes in that the more active a fighter is, the more theoretically they will be prepared and in condition when all significant fight such as one for a world championship does come along. In this case, Anderson is trying to continue his progression as well as stay active.
Currently rated number seven in the world in the World Boxing Council (WBC) Heavyweight ratings, Anderson while now risking a top ten ranking with each subsequent time that he competes, in addition to being active, it will also increase his name recognition value towards a potential world championship bout should he continue to win. In Andrii Rudenko, Anderson will face a veteran of forty-two professional fights, who has a respectable record of 35-6, with 21 Knockouts. A possible red flag that some might point to however, is all of Rudenko's six defeats came when he has stepped up in the caliber of his competition having lost to several top contenders in his career, most notably among them, former world title challenger Alexander Povetkin in July of 2017.
The one bright spot for Rudenko is he has only been stopped once in his career and it will obviously be interesting to see if he will be able to stand up to the power of Anderson. Although this has the appearance of a "Stay Busy" fight for Anderson, his position in the WBC ratings likely means that he potentially could be on a short list of possible contenders who might get an opportunity to either fight in a world championship elimination bout, if not potentially an opportunity to face Tyson Fury sometime within the next year. Thus, it is an important fight for the young undefeated American contender as he continues his rise up the ranks.
While this day spotlighting the Heavyweight division offers a look at two different levels of the division, one should not dismiss the possibility of Anderson potentially being in line to face the winner of Usyk-Dubois down the line as well, especially if no further progress is made towards further unification of the division going into 2024. Stranger things have happened in the sport before and if Anderson beats Rudenko, the idea of him facing either Usyk or Dubois is something to discuss. We will see who emerges victorious in these two Heavyweight bouts on Saturday, August 26th.
"And That's The Boxing Truth."
Usyk vs Dubois takes place on Saturday, August 26 at Wrocław Stadium in Wrocław, Poland. The fight can be seen in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 5PM ET/2PM PT.
Anderson vs. Rudenko takes place on Saturday, August 26 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, OK. The fight as well as it's full undercard can be seen in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 6:45PM ET/3:45PM PT.
ESPN+ is available through the ESPN app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/Smart TVs. For more information about ESPN+ including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, Smart TVs, and to subscribe please visit: www.ESPNPlus.com.
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