Just about everyone wants to fight Anthony Joshua right now, and it’s obvious why: cash, glory and three world heavyweight belts would belong to the challenger should he manage to derail the AJ Express. Undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk has his eyes firmly set on Joshua, but first the unbeaten Ukrainian southpaw who has achieved so much already after just 15 pro fights must get past Tony Bellew in November.
This fight will be Usyk’s last as a cruiserweight (also, win or lose against Usyk, Bellew says this will be his last fight, period) and he wants to challenge AJ next year some time (join the queue). And, in speaking with UK paper The Sun, Usyk has stated that one of the reasons he has signed to defend his belts against Bellew and work with promoter Eddie Hearn is “to get to Joshua.”
“One reason we have agreed to fight Bellew is to get to Joshua,” Usyk said. “It is exactly part of the strategy and why we have this co-operation with Eddie Hearn. He has Tony, he has Anthony, he has Dillian Whyte and a couple more heavyweights. It’s the best way, the shortest way – but not the easiest – way to fight Anthony.”
Bellew of course aims to ruin any chance Usyk has of moving up in weight as a 16-0 fighter. Interestingly, though, Bellew did say at yesterday’s presser to officially announce his November 10 fight with Usyk how he is “certain” his upcoming opponent will “win a portion of the heavyweight title one day.” But can Usyk, with his sheer boxing brilliance, manage to defeat reigning WBA/WBO/IBF heavyweight king Joshua?
Usyk is the favourite to defeat Bellew (“I’ve been written off before, it’s nothing new,” Bellew has said going into this fight), but he says he is fully ready for a rough and tough fight. Usyk, though, should win in Manchester in November (although you write Bellew off at your peril) and then we will see if he can join the very small club where admission is only granted to cruiserweight champions who were able to move up and win a heavyweight crown also.
Usyk is tall enough at 6’3” and if he can retain his speed up a heavyweight, he will no doubt be a very interesting challenger for Joshua. But looking ahead can be a dangerous thing in this sport. Will Joshua still be champion this time next year? Will Usyk actually beat Bellew?
Time alone will tell.