By Keith Idec
Anthony Joshua appreciates Oleksandr Usyk’s skills.
While respectful of the unbeaten Ukrainian’s boxing ability, Joshua also cautioned Monday that it’ll take more than skills for the undisputed cruiserweight champion to succeed as a heavyweight. Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs), the IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion, was asked about Usyk, a potential opponent, during a conference call to promote his mandatory WBA title defense against Alexander Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs) on September 22 at Wembley Stadium in London (Sky Sports Box Office; DAZN).
The 31-year-old Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs) is expected to box England’s Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) in his next fight. It hasn’t been revealed if an Usky-Bellew bout would be contested at the cruiserweight limit of 200 pounds or within the heavyweight division, in which Bellew has stopped former WBA heavyweight champion David Haye in each of his last two fights.
Regardless, Usyk will move up to heavyweight at some point. Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, mentioned the 6-feet-3 southpaw as a possible opponent for Joshua last week, when Usyk signed a promotional agreement with Hearn’s company, Matchroom Boxing.
“If he moves up correctly, yeah,” Joshua replied when asked if Usyk could thrive as a heavyweight. “What you’ve gotta remember is the heavyweight division today is different than the Muhammad Alis and the [Rocky] Marcianos. It used to be guys like me, and [Deontay] Wilder, [Tyson] Fury, we used to be clumsy. And now our coordination’s good, we can punch, we’re strong. But Usyk needs to move up at the right stages and just figure out what it’s like being with 17-, 18-stone guys that punch very hard.
“It’s not just based on skill, this heavyweight division. It’s based on your will. It’s how much you can take, so if he moves up correctly – I know he has a lot of amateur experience and he’s done well as a cruiserweight. But to move up to the heavyweight division, it’ll also test his will, along with his skill. So it’ll be really interesting to see how he develops. He’s more than welcome because he’s a good asset to the sport.”
In his last fight, Usyk easily out-boxed Russia’s Murat Gassiev and won a wide unanimous decision in the final of the World Boxing Super Series’ cruiserweight tournament July 21 in Moscow. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist defended his WBC and WBO cruiserweight titles versus his previously unbeaten opponent and took the IBF and WBA championships from Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.