Usyk Victorious in Heavyweight Debut
The former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KO’s) made good on his heavyweight debut. Topping the bill of the DAZN fight card, Usyk outmaneuvered a clearly out of shape Chazz “The Gentleman” Witherspoon (38-4, 29 KO’s). Witherspoon was recruited for the fight on four days’ notice as a fill-in. Original foe, Tyrone Spong (14-0, 13 KO’s), was flagged by VADA for an adverse drug finding.
Ahead of this bout, Usyk’s entrance into the heavyweight division has been treated with much optimism. Most thought that, armed with his terrific skillset and immense ring-IQ, he would tear right through the Gentleman. Witherspoon’s reputation for losing all of his major step-up prizefights did not afford him much faith. When the boxers got together in the ring, we quickly saw that Witherspoon was not as dead in the water as many thought.
What was immediately apparent is how much respect Usyk’s gritty Philly adversary would command. Even when the wild-eyed Ukrainian boxer connected with a series of clean shots he had to retreat rather than remain in the danger zone. Usyk was not an overly destructive puncher at cruiserweight. Thus far, it looks like he’ll contend with an even greater punch deficient north of 2oolbs.
Usyk won many of the first rounds by way of his activity. Still, Witherspoon did display a surprisingly effective defensive skillset. The Gentleman regularly picked off the majority of punches in most of Usyk’s flurries. The former cruiserweight warlord did find a happy home for his straight-left hook though.
In the fourth round, Witherspoon’s output took a serious dip which, providing Usyk the chance to increase his. This dynamic worsened in the fifth. The Gentleman connected with a big right-hook to open the sixth round and while it didn’t shake Usyk up, it certainly got his attention. The sturdy Ukrainian pugilist came on rather strong after eating the shot. He pushed Witherspoon to the ropes and assorted corners a few times.
In the seventh round, Witherspoon was sustaining damage with virtually zero return fire. Usyk was pelting the challenger with blows along the ropes to the point it seemed the ref might jump in at any moment. Instead, Witherspoon’s corner would stop the fight in between rounds. Even though Usyk will be credited the stoppage win, it should be noted that Witherspoon was crushed more by fatigue than Usyk’s power.
It will be very interesting to see how Usyk fairs with a more dangerous heavyweight who has an entire training camp to prepare.
By: Bakari Simpson