Usyk vs Witherspoon Betting Preview : A short heavyweight debut in store for the Cat
Chazz Witherspoon may be doing one of the bravest things of any sportsman this weekend, but potentially one of the most foolhardy as he steps in the ring with Oleksandr Usyk for the Ukrainian’s debut at heavyweight as a professional.
Usyk (16-0) was due to face Tyrone Spong before the former kickboxer tested positive for banned substances and was removed from the bout. Spong (14-0) has a lot of power and is undefeated as a professional, but was still something of a sacrificial lamb for Usyk to step up to heavyweight and look good on his debut, Witherspoon is a considerably worse opponent than the man from Paramaribo.
Witherspoon (38-3) has been around a long time, making his debut in 2004 and now at 38-years-old he is getting one more crack at the big time. After an outstanding amateur career he started very well as a pro, before suffering a bizarre disqualification loss to Chris Arreola in 2008. He has only ever stepped up in competition to any sort of decent level three times, and these have been his three defeats, to Arreola, Tony Thompson and Seth Mitchell, all within the distance.
Otherwise, none of his 38 victories are of much note. Looking for a standout name on his record and you are scratching around with the likes of Ty Cobb and Adam Richards...exactly.
The Cat has cleaned out the cruiserweight division
Now he is taking on a man who, in just 16 professional fights, has cleared out all the competition at cruiserweight, winning every major belt in the division and then defending them in style, splattering former champion Tony Bellew last year in Manchester.
Rarely have we ever seen a man completely destroy an entire weight class in such short order, beating Krzysztof Glowacki, Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev in the space of two years to accrue all the gold at 200lbs. He only defended all four belts once, against Bellew, and the fight was reasonably close before the Cat completely sparked the Bomber in the eighth, bringing his cruiserweight domination to an end in spectacular style.
The move to heavyweight was inevitable and he certainly has the frame to compete in the division. At 6’3” and with a reach of 78” he is not quite the giant propositions of Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, but he could not be called a small heavyweight by any means and will bring with him superb skill levels from the lower weight class.
The 32-year-old won Olympic old at London 2012 and his movement and slick boxing skills are clearly from an elite amateur fighter. He was extremely hard to get hold of for the quicker, smaller men at cruiserweight, the bigger, slower fighters at heavyweight are going to have an absolute nightmare trying to catch him clean. Usyk has not been floored yet in his career and, although heavyweights come with much more power, the likelihood of him being caught with a bomb is slim.
Usyk could be thrown in against the likes of Joshua, Fury and Wilder right now, although there is no need to just yet. A fight with Andy Ruiz would also be very interesting, as would a scrap with Dillian Whyte. The Ukrainian would have a very good chance in any of those contests, especially the latter two and he can certainly be classed in the world class bracket in this division before he has even thrown a punch in it.
The American is completely out-gunned
Witherspoon is nowhere near that level. He has plenty of wins on his record but they are against people who Usyk would not even consider as sparring partners. The American has had just two fights in the last three years and is taking this one on short notice. It would be almost impossible for him to prepare for the cruiserweight king, but he has had the worst preparation possible.
Really this fight will go exactly however Usyk wants it to go. If he wants to toy with Witherspoon, get some rounds in, feel the power and weight of a proper heavyweight on him, then he could allow it to go on for a while. If, however, the Olympic champ wants to put on a show, highlight his pace and power in his new division then it could be a very early night in Chicago.
The latter seems much more likely. While Usyk has the ability to drag this fight on unnecessarily, he will know that there is no need to invite that danger on himself. He will also know that spectacular early knockouts earn you more money and better opportunities in the future. Letting this one rumble on past a handful of rounds will not impress anybody and not position him favourably in the busy landscape at the top of the heavyweight division.
Usyk will find openings easily, and while he isn’t really a one-punch knockout artist, he will accumulate damage very quickly in this one and the referee will be ready to jump in early on. Witherspoon will be looking to defend and will not be adventurous early doors, but such is the skill of the favourite, and his ability to create angles, that he will be able to do little about the onslaught coming his way.
Expect the skills of Usyk to dazzle the American and the fight to be waved off within the first nine minutes.
- Oleksandr Usyk is 16-0 as a pro with 12 knockouts
- Seven of his 16 fights have been for world titles at cruiserweight
- Well-travelled Usyk’s last five fights have all been in different countries
- Usyk finished his amateur career with a record of 335-15
- The Ukrainian won Olympic and World Championship gold at heavyweight, beating Artur Beterbiev en route to both titles
- The fight is scheduled for 12 rounds, a distance Witherspoon has never gone, but Usyk has done four times
- Witherspoon is on an eight-fight win streak dating back to July 2014
- The Gentleman has never fought for a world title in his 41-fight career
- The last time Witherspoon fought an undefeated boxer was in 2006
- Witherspoon is one inch taller than Usyk