Oleksandr Usyk: From undisputed cruiserweight ruler to heavyweight king

Ryan Allan takes a look at Oleksandr Usyk's previous five fights, from winning the World Boxing Super Series to dethroning Anthony Joshua.

Oleksandr Usyk is sitting in the top two alongside Canelo Alvarez when it comes to the Ring Magazine Pound for Pound rankings.

It's hardly a surprise given the opponents he has faced at cruiserweight before moving up to heavyweight and winning three of four world titles.

More impressively, Usyk has won all of his major fights on away territory, something which is unusual considering the scorecards tend to favour the home fighter in a close fight.

Here, we take a look at his five most recent fights.

1) Oleksandr Usyk vs Murat Gassiev

Date: July 21, 2018

Location: Russia Olympic Stadium, Moscow, Russia

Result: Usyk UD (12) - Retained WBC and WBO cruiserweight titles; won WBA (Super), IBF and vacant The Ring cruiserweight titles; World Boxing Super Series: Cruiserweight final

Usyk celebrates winning 2018's WBSS

Already a two-time cruiserweight world champion, Oleksandr "The Cat" Usyk would cement his legacy as one of, if not the finest of all to box in his weight class, when he took on WBA and IBF champion Murat Gassiev.

Boxing in his opponents back garden, this time in the particularly intimidating surroundings of the Russia Olympic Stadium in Moscow, Usyk came into this bout having claimed the WBC cruiserweight title, again winning on the road, overcoming hometown favourite Mairis Breidis in Riga just six months earlier.

That fight had perhaps proved to be the toughest on Usyk resume to date but a relatively quick return to the ring would give "The Cat" his chance to become the third-ever undisputed cruiserweight champion with the Muhammad Ali Trophy also on the line in Moscow.

Standing in his way of supremacy was the WBA and IBF ruler, Murat Gassiev and while a close fight was expected, Usyk would once again use his commanding jab to dominate the Russian from the outset. Boxing his way to a convincing decision victory, the judges' scorecards read 120-108, 119-109, and 119-109 in favour of the now undisputed king of the cruiserweights.

Having also collected the Muhammad Ali Trophy, Usyk had cleaned out his division in some style, boxing on foreign soil with controlled precision and outstanding ring smarts. The Ukrainian now had few challenges remaining in the 200lb weight class.

2) Oleksandr Usyk vs Tony Bellew

Date: November 10, 2018

Location: Manchester Arena, Manchester, England

Result: TKO 8 - Usyk retains WBA (Super), WBC, IBF, WBO, and The Ring cruiserweight titles

Bellew Usyk November 2018

In his final fight at the cruiserweight ranks, Usyk would make the final defence of his undisputed crown when he took on former WBC champion Tony Bellew for a hugely anticipated bout at the Manchester Arena.

Coming into the fight, Usyk could not have been more confident, having claimed successive away title victories against Marco Huck in Berlin, Mairis Briedis in Riga and Murat Gassiev in Moscow, handing the Ukrainian a full set of Cruiserweight titles.

Having conquered the division, becoming only the third man to become the undisputed champion at the weight class after O'Neil Bell and Evander Holyfield, the challenge of the twice-beaten Bellew appeared to be the last serious threat for the brilliant champion at 200lbs.

Once again, taking on the challenge on foreign soil, Usyk would begin the fight slowly, but his superior ring smarts soon proved too much for the former WBC champion who had, perhaps unwisely, admitted prior to the fight that this would be his last dance in the sport.

Boxing with unrelenting quality and timing, Usyk would again demonstrate his spectacular skills and will with a brilliant performance against a tough and highly respected opponent. Once again, scribes would struggle to find sufficient superlatives to lavish upon the supreme Ukrainian.

Sadly for Bellew, there would be no fairytale farewell with Usyk landing a devastating one-two combination in round eight, ending the contest in dramatic style with the brave Liverpudlian falling hard in his final fight.

Having gone out on his shield, Bellew had nothing but praise for the unbeaten champion, and while his time in the sport had come to an end, for Usyk, the big cats in the heavyweight division now lay in wait.

3) Oleksandr Usyk vs Chazz Witherspoon

Date: October 12, 2019

Location: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, US

Result: Usyk wins - Witherspoon retires in R7

Oleksandr Usyk

Making his debut in the heavyweight ranks, Usyk was initially scheduled to face the unbeaten Tyrone Spong, but a failed drug for the Surinamese-Dutch born fighter put the kibosh on that fight. Instead, Usyk took on long-in-the-tooth veteran Chazz Witherspoon at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

While Witherspoon hardly represented the stiffest of challenges on paper, the Philadelphia native came into the fight having lost just three times over a fifteen-year career and would provide Usyk with a relatively risk-averse first taste of the heavyweight ranks.

Despite a brave effort from the 38-year old Witherspoon, Usyk demonstrated plenty of the masterful skills that made him such an exceptional champion in the cruiserweight ranks.

Boxing behind a brilliant, piercing jab and letting his hands go at will, Usyk dominated his veteran opponent from the opening bell with an exhausted Witherspoon forced to retire on his stool at the conclusion of the seventh stanza, handing the Ukrainian his first win in the heavyweight division.

4) Oleksandr Usyk vs Derek Chisora

Date: October 31, 2020

Location: The SSE Arena, London, England

Result: Usyk UD (12) - Won WBO Inter-Continental heavyweight title

Oleksandr Usyk defeats Dereck Chisora to inch closer to heavyweight title bout

Usyk would next take on the hugely experienced and always awkward Derk Chisora at the SSE Arena in London in just his second fight since his move up from the cruiserweight division.

Indeed, coming into this bout, Chisora had claimed a couple of pretty decent knock-out victories, first against former world title challenger Artur Szpilka and then against the hard-hitting but under-achieving veteran David Price.

Full of the expected bravado and swagger we have come to expect from Chisora, this bout was keenly anticipated on both sides, with Del Boy still angling for another world title shot and Usyk looking to make his mark in the red-hot heavyweight division.

Usyk would take some warming up in the fight, with Chisora bringing plenty of bluster and aggression in the opening rounds. However, it was quickly evident that the Zimbabwe-born Brit was struggling with the pace of the fight, as he gasped for air between rounds.

Using far superior footwork and boasting much more stamina than Chisora, Usyk would outwork and outskill his over-matched opponent in what was still a keenly contested bout. He earned a unanimous decision win with Chisora a game but ultimately, a well-beaten loser.

5) Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua

Date: September 25, 2021

Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England

Result: Usyk UD (12) - Won WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles

Usyk beat Joshua in London

With just two heavyweight fights to his name, Oleksandr "The Cat" Usyk would now aim to become just the third man after Evander Holyfield and David Haye to win a world title in both the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions.

Standing in his way for this monumental task was the once-beaten home favourite, Anthony Joshua, who, having failed to secure a unification bout with WBC king Tyson Fury, would instead put his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles on the line against the unbeaten Ukrainian.

Entering the bout as a 3/1 underdog, Usyk, a relative novice at the heavyweight class, would show no signs of nerves despite the size of the occasion and quickly boxed his way to a deserved early lead in the fight, winning each of the first three rounds.

However, despite something of a response from the champion, Usyk would surprise many by dominating much of the action, with Joshua appearing somewhat dumbfounded and unable to respond to the superior craftsmanship of the former cruiserweight ruler.

Despite boasting all of the advantages in size, reach, experience, as well as fighting in his home city, AJ's second reign as heavyweight ruler would come to an end, with Usyk claiming a deserved unanimous decision victory.

However, with a rematch likely for early spring, the dethroned Joshua will get another chance to become a three-time heavyweight champion but whether he has the tools to unlock the defences of Usyk remains in serious doubt.

Read more: Fury-Usyk, Crawford-Spence and Lomachenko-Davis - five dream fights for 2022

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