Add UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman as the latest MMA star who wants to try his hand at beating boxing’s pound-for-pound king.
“The Nigerian Nightmare” has dreams of knocking Saul “Canelo” Alvarez off his throne.
“I think I can do anything that I put my mind to,” Usman said in a recent Instagram Live session. “I don’t disrespect Canelo. I think Canelo is one of the best, one of the greatest of this generation and I do not disrespect him at all. I respect his skills and I think he’s a phenomenal champion. But I also know whatever I put my mind to, I go out there and I get it. So if it’s in the cards in the future, maybe we’ll dance. We’ll see.”
The 34-year-old Usman (19-1) is an elite wrestler who has not suffered a defeat since his second pro fight and is the frontrunner to receive fighter of the year honors in MMA after defending his 170 title so far in 2020 against Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal.
Usman also scored a knockout of the year candidate in his rematch with Masvidal, and he’s slated to engage in yet another rematch when he takes on Colby Covington at UFC 268.
You can add Usman as the latest MMA fighter looking for a crossover boxing match against Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs), a four-division crownholder and the current WBC, WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine champion at 168 pounds.
In 2020, Masvidal said: “I’m dead serious about trying to fight Canelo Alvarez. It’d give me a nice little change. I’ll take my talents over there. I feel like I could shock the world.”
After sitting ringside to watch (and later interview) Alvarez after his dismantling of Avni Yildirim in February, Masvidal had a more honest assessment of himself.
“He’s one hell of a boxer, my brother,” he said. “[My] chances are limited, but I’m a dog in every fight I’m in … My first love is boxing and I still love it to this day. If a champion in MMA can come over and challenge a champion in boxing? For me, it’s more than a dream, it’s a fulfillment. I first fell in love with boxing before UFC, started boxing before I even saw the UFC, so it’d be just full circle amazingness.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com