In this corner with Russ Anber: From Chicago to Philadelphia

Russ Anber
17/10/2019 6:50am

In his latest column boxing's master of all trades Russ Anber gives the inside track on working the big fights with Oleksandr Usyk and Artur Beterbiev...

ad415f2a 29c9 4dc7 99e7 481019a73b78It's been a pretty crazy few weeks for me working fights and it will be over the next few weeks too. But I can't complain about that! It's good to be busy! It's the sort of life I always dreamed of when I was making my way in the sport.

I'm travelling to fights all the time and at the highest level. There have been times in my career when I was going to small shows, club shows, amateur shows wanting to learn my trade and find my space in the world of boxing. Now, today, being on the biggest stages in the world I'm where I always dreamed of being since I was 15 years old.

What would I be doing if I wasn't here, going from city to city, from one fight to another fight, week by week? Well, it wouldn't be very exciting! It's wonderful to be in this position, to travel the world, meet great people and share my passion with other people who love boxing.

Being in Chicago last weekend with [Oleksandr] Usyk was great. It was a great promotion and Usyk got a great reception. Everything went off well apart from one hitch, which turned out being inconsequential to a degree but still bothered me. In fact I can't believe the same thing has now happened to me twice in my last few fights.

It's crazy but once again we had an issue with an opponent being allowed to switch gloves in the dressing room and us in the Usyk camp not being told about it. Of course, this also happened before the Oscar Rivas vs Dillian Whyte fight when I was working with Rivas.

Usyk vs Witherspoon wasn't a title fight, but it was an elimination fight. Fortunately, what happened with the gloves didn't end up making a difference to the fight but it wasn't fair. People in boxing talk so much about being transparent and fair surrounding fighters' safety and things like this should not be taken lightly.

Fighters should always be given the respect they deserve and the Usyk camp should have been notified that Witherspoon was looking to change his gloves. What's the use of having a glove selection meeting if later you're just going to say: 'these gloves fit me yesterday, but not today?'

Anyway, that issue to one side, it was a terrific night. You would have thought we were in Kiev as the Ukrainian fans really showed up. They are really proud of Usyk - they love him and rightly so, as he has to be one of - if not the most - charismatic fighters in boxing today. If he spoke English more people would realise this.

Usyk is funny, he's likeable and people feel a connection with him. He's cool, he's approachable, he's humble. He's what boxing needs. We need more Usyks in the sport. He's a good guy - a guy who proves that with hard work, effort and perseverance you can reach your goals. A guy who proves you don't have to be a bad person or a trash talker to succeed.

p3Cjq1bfAs usual, Usyk used Rival gloves, the brand that I own. He has used our gloves since his December 2016 fight against Thabiso Mchunu in Inglewood, which was also the first time I wrapped his hands. For the Witherspoon fight we also made him, for the first time, a pair of boots. We sorted that out with a new manufacturer who we are working with. From what Usyk said to me after the fight he really loved the boots, he was very comfortable and happy with them. I was really pleased about that.

As for his performance on Saturday, I'd give Usyk a solid 8.5 or 9 out of ten. Chazz took the fight on short notice and you can't come into a fight against Usyk without being 150 per cent ready because this guy is like the racehorse Secretariat. He just keeps going and going and the longer a fight goes on the more he picks up the pace. Most fighters slow down as a fight goes on but with Usyk he picks it up. If you can't live with that rate and rhythm then you're in for a long night. Witherspoon is a tricky little fighter - he's got a good skill set, he knows how to defend himself and get sneaky shots in - but Usyk just doesn't let you rest.

Looking at his performance from a coaching point of view there is one thing I would like to fix - I'm not going to tell you what! - and I think that's something we will get fixed in the gym for the next fight.

After the Usyk fight I was back in Canada for one night and then straight on to Philadelphia to work with Artur Beterbiev and his team for his light heavyweight unification fight against Oleksandr Gvozdyk, which takes place on Friday.

I've heard that this fight isn't even being screened on UK TV and I tell you something, I just don't get that. Sometimes the boxing world just baffles me.

Here you have two undefeated world champions in a unification fight - it's exactly the sort of fight the critics of boxing say doesn't happen. And when it does happen it just isn't gaining the traction you would expect. I have no idea why. Why would anyone not want to watch this fight? I mean it's a guy with a 100 per cent KO ratio against a guy with 14 KOs out of 17 fights. Why would you not want to broadcast this fight? It doesn't make any sense whatsoever. I'm at a loss to explain how this can happen.

It's a dangerous fight for Artur. Gvozdyk is a helluva fighter, a skilled technician. His win against Adonis Stevenson was massive. Beterbiev will be on a seek and destroy mission like he always is and this fight has the makings of a riveting fight. It could be a short fight but one of the most explosive of the year - it has that potential.

We're confident that Beterbiev has the edge in the power department and that could be crucial. If you compare the two fighters by all the various boxing criteria then Gvozdyk might come out ahead in a lot of them, but that crushing power Beterbiev has is a great equaliser.

We arrived on Monday and Beterbiev is ready. Getting his weight down without any trouble is the last hurdle and then we're ready to go. Everything he has worked on in his training camp will hopefully come into play on Friday night and I can't wait!

Russ Anber is on Twitter and Instagram @russanber.
Russ was speaking to Luke G. Williams