Thursday, April 18

The Rise of The Undefeated Boxer Oleksandr Usyk, Explained

As a teenager, Oleksandr Usyk would never have been able to comprehend just how great of a boxer he would become. He wouldn’t be able to comprehend the heights he would achieve in the higher weights, claiming multiple titles and becoming one of the few undisputed champions. Because as a teenager, Oleksandr Usyk put his drive and dedication into something else altogether: soccer.

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Usyk, nicknamed The Cat, didn’t start boxing until age 15 in 2002. The Ukrainian fighter had a glittering amateur career with a record of 335−15. Before turning pro, Usyk won heavyweight gold medals as an amateur at the 2012 Olympics and the 2011 World Championships. He competed as a member of team Ukraine Otamans in the heavyweight division of the 2012–2013 World Series of Boxing (WSB), winning all six fights. Usyk took one fight at a time and rose the ranks step by step, maintaining his dominance in every phase of his career. He is still unbeaten in his professional career.

Turning Pro and Maiden Title


Following an eventful and dominating amateur career, Usyk turned pro at the age of 26 in 2013 and decided to take on the cruiserweight division. Usyk started his professional career on a good note in November 2013, beating Mexican fighter Felipe Romero after a fifth-round knockout. He then went on to secure three consecutive wins over his respective opponents before having a shot at his first title in October 2014. Usyk defeated South African boxer David Bruwer by TKO in the seventh round for the interim WBO Inter-Continental cruiserweight title.

From there on, there was no stopping the fighter, who was ready to take on the world. Only two months later, Usyk successfully defended his championship by defeating Danie Venter in the ninth round. In April 2015, Usyk faced off against former Russian cruiserweight champion Andrey Knyazev (11-1, 6 KOs). Referee Mickey Vann ultimately called time on the bout in round eight after seven well-contested rounds, concluding that Knyazev had sustained too much damage. With this victory, Usyk remained on track to challenge Marco Huck for the WBO championship.

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Usyk used his jab to control the bout against Johnny Muller, the former light heavyweight champion of South Africa, in Kyiv in August 2015. In round three, Usyk twice knocked Muller to the ground. However, Muller protested, but the referee stopped the fight with very short time remaining in the round.

In a 12-round bout in December against Cuban boxer Pedro Rodriguez, Usyk made his fourth and last defense of the WBO Inter-Continental cruiserweight belt. Usyk knocked Rodriguez down twice, first in round six with an uppercut, before the fight was stopped in round seven when Rodriguez was assaulted with yet another flurry from Usyk, trapping him against the ropes before the ref stepped in. With a world championship bout on the horizon, this victory sent Usyk to the top of the WBO world rankings.

Oleksandr Usyk defeats Chazz Witherspoon

In June 2016, Usyk gained his WBO world cruiserweight title after beating Polish fighter Krzysztof Glowacki via a unanimous decision. Usyk controlled the battle with his quick hands, superior movement, and spearing jab. He sliced Gowacki’s eye early in the fight, which continued to bleed throughout the bout. Later that year, he successfully defended the title against Thabiso Mchunu via ninth round KO.

Usyk competed in the cruiserweight division during season one of the World Boxing Super Series between 2017 and 2018. He won the championship match against Murat Gassiev by a unanimous decision to claim the title. In November 2018, Usyk, now 34, retired Tony Bellew after one final defense at 200 pounds to keep his titles.

Duel with Anthony Joshua: Road to Unified Heavyweight Championship

After the failure of agreement between Anthony Joshua’s and Tyson Fury’s camp for a fight, Usyk would come to terms with the British heavyweight for a September 2021 bout in Great Britian.

Though many predicted an easy win for the popular Brit, Usyk defeated Joshua in a unanimous decision to claim the WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight belts. The former undisputed world cruiserweight champion’s technical skill stood out in a memorable event. Usyk won the WBA, IBF, and WBO championships with judges’ scorecards reading 117-112, 116-112, and 115-113. Joshua finished the fight slumped against the ropes as his fierce opponent searched for a spectacular conclusion, netting Usyk all the lucrative honors.

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In a rematch in August 2022 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Usyk would come out the victor over Anthony Joshua, taking home a split decision. Usyk defeated Joshua for the second time in a row and kept the WBA, IBF, and WBO championships in a thrilling fight, despite Joshua’s performance being significantly improved over their first fight at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in their first bout when he gave up the belts.

Usyk vs Dubois

In August 2023, Usyk faced Daniel Dubois, the WBA heavyweight champion, to defend his undisputed belts. Usyk stopped Dubois in the ninth round to retain his belts, although the events of the fifth round — in which Usyk was knocked down by a punch from Dubois that the referee erroneously deemed a low blow — were disputed. Later, Dubois was made to take a knee by Usyk in the eighth and ninth rounds before being declared the winner. In any of the fight’s rounds, Dubois was unable to strike a double-digit punch. The victory over Dubois has extended Usyk’s perfect career wins to 21, out of which 14 were knockouts.

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All eyes are now on Usyk’s undisputed heavyweight title bout with the ‘Gypsy King’ Tyson Fury in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, though Fury himself has to first contend with his bout against retired MMA fighter Francis Ngannou. Additional details, including the fight’s date and time, have not yet been announced.

Oleksandr Usyk’s rise to the top has been inspirational. Holding a perfect record and all the belts, his name is one that has earned a rightful spot in the pound-for-pound best conversation.

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