Oleksandr Usyk Seeks Statement Win in First Heavyweight Boxing Match
Undefeated former cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk will make his heavyweight debut against veteran Chazz Witherspoon this weekend in Chicago.
Updated: Oct. 11, 2019 • 9:55 AM ET
Oleksandr Usyk is looking to make his name known in boxing's heavyweight division.
Former cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk will make his heavyweight debut against veteran Chazz Witherspoon this Saturday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Attempting to become one of the very few fighters in boxing history to move from cruiserweight to heavyweight and once again become a champion, Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) was originally scheduled to face former kickboxing great Tyrone Spong on Saturday. Spong, however, tested positive for a banned substance and was removed from the fight.
The 32-year-old Usyk has already established an impressive championship career, having won the WBO cruiserweight title in 2016 and becoming the first boxer to unify the division with a unanimous decision victory over Murat Gassiev in 2018. In his last fight nearly a year ago, Usyk defeated Tony Bellew by TKO, producing one of the best finishes of 2018.
Included in his list of accomplishments, Usyk also won gold medals at the 2008 European championships, 2011 World Championships and 2012 London Olympic Games, while also finishing his amateur career with a 335-15 record. When asked about fighting current heavyweight champions, he divulged that he has one in mind.
“Of course I want to fight them (Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury) but right now at this moment, the most I want to fight, I want to fight Wilder,” Usyk said in a recent interview with iFL TV.
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If Usyk wins on Saturday, many believe he’ll be a mandatory challenger to the winner of Andy Ruiz vs. Anthony Joshua 2. It’s unclear whether he would get a title shot that soon, especially with a potential victory over a fighter like Witherspoon, who will step in on short notice.
Witherspoon (38-3, 29 KOs) has won his last eight fights against bottom-level competition and hasn’t fought a meaningful bout in the division since losing to former title challenger Tony Thompson by TKO in 2009. His other losses have come to former title challenger Chris Arreola and Seth Mitchell.
The 38-year-old Witherspoon is optimistic that he can step in and do well against Usyk.
"I can't wait to face Usyk in Chicago," Witherspoon recently said via ESPN. "I have been in training, ready for a big fight, and it doesn't get bigger than this. Oleksandr is stepping up to heavyweight -- and he's going to find out that it's a totally different game."
Witherspoon continued, "I've won my last eight fights, and I really feel that I've been waiting in the wings for a huge opportunity like this, and I am going to put every ounce of myself into the fight on this massive stage.”
A title fight will also be featured on the main card, as Dmitry Bivol will defend the WBA light heavyweight title against Lenin Castillo.
Bivol (16-0, 11 KOs) is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Joe Smith Jr., his fifth defense of the title, in March. The 28-year-old Bivol also has key wins over Jean Pascal, Isaac Chilemba and Sullivan Barrera, and he’s prepared to continue his winning ways to hopefully land a fight with a bigger name.
“I know for Castillo this a big opportunity, but we’ve prepared very well in Los Angeles and I look forward to putting on a great performance for those in attendance and watching on DAZN,” Bivol recently said via Fightnews.com. “Since I became a world champion over two years ago I’ve wanted the toughest challenges and the biggest fights, either world title unification fights or any of the top names.”
Castillo (20-2-1, 15 KOs) has won two straight fights over John Cortez and Reinaldo Gonzalez. The 32-year-old Dominican fighter has remained in the title conversation since his first loss to Joseph Williams in 2017 by staying busy and winning fights in convincing fashion when he needs to. Bivol will undoubtedly be Castillo’s toughest challenge to date, as no one has figured the champion out. Castillo, though, can produce one of the biggest upsets of 2019 if he can find a way to win in Chicago this weekend.
• Start time/how to watch: The main card can be seen on DAZN at 9 p.m. ET this Saturday