In this corner with Russ Anber: 'Usyk is gonna look fantastic'
In his latest column, Russ Anber surveys the heavyweight landscape, including his take on Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk's impending debut in the sport's blue riband division...
The heavyweight division is in an interesting place right now.
I was in Las Vegas for the Tyson Fury vs Otto Wallin fight in September. Wallin put up a good fight, although he’s not a big puncher. In terms of building Fury’s profile in America the Wallin fight fit the bill perfectly. People were entertained. Wallin was better than Tom Schwarz and he came to fight.
Truth be told, everybody under-estimated Wallin. I hate the fact that people often rate an opponent or make an assessment about a boxer's quality based on whether they’ve heard of him or not! People didn’t know who Otto Wallin was so they didn’t do justice to how good a kid he is.
That sort of attitude has always bothered me. Another example is the fact that a lot of the American media paid no attention to Sergey Kovalev for ages and then suddenly started talking about him. If they’d done five minutes of research they would have known what a talent he was much earlier.
Another prime example is Jean Pascal. After Pascal beat Chad Dawson, Dawson’s first comment after the fight to Pascal was: 'I didn’t even know who you were. I had to look you up on google.' Yet Pascal was a multiple national champion and an Olympian who had held a portion of the world title!
That closed mentality to the rest of the world that some people in the American boxing industry have doesn’t work any more. The world has gotten bigger and sometimes fans and media just don’t do their research.
Anyway, back to Fury and Wallin! Fury boxed his way through that fight, probably because of the cut, and he boxed very smart. Some people want to argue about the legitimacy of Fury’s claim to the lineal title but what they can’t deny is that he’s one of if not the most entertaining fighters in the world today. Fury is a very talented fighter. For such a big guy the agility he has and the moves he has are really impressive. He’s not just someone who wins because of his size. I like the way he boxes.
Of course, Fury is building to a likely rematch with Deontay Wilder. I worked with Deontay for quite a while and his punching power makes him very relevant. Whatever shortcomings he may have technically, he is still a guy – as he proved in the Fury fight – who up until the last minute of a fight can turn things around with a single blow. That makes him a highly marketable and dangerous fighter.
Wilder loves what he does and he brings tension and drama to every fight. Everyone knows that knockouts sell and Wilder delivers them at an alarming rate in sometimes quite violent fashion. He’s relevant against anyone. He could lose 11 out of 12 rounds and there would still be a chance he could win it in the 12th with a single shot. And when he hurts you, he's like a shark - as soon as he scents blood he's like a different animal.
In which case, if Fury has established himself as the most entertaining heavyweight in the world, then without question Wilder is the most dangerous. I think Wilder will have learned a lot from those 12 rounds against Fury. You get better with every fight you have and for sure Wilder's getting better with every fight.
Fury will have learned from that fight too. He was dropped and punished a little bit i the first fight and he knows now the doom that can ensue if someone like Wilder is still around in the later rounds. That will always be in the back of Fury's head.
There's nothing to dislike about this fight and regardless of what happens with the Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua it's probably the most compelling fight in the heavyweight division.
Talking of Ruiz and Joshua there are a ton of scenarios that could play out in that fight. Is Ruiz another Buster Douglas? He beat arguably the most popular fighter on the planet in AJ but can he bring that same vigour to the rematch? Or will he think, you know I've got a great payday here and now I'm done?
It's a dangerous fight for both boxers. The potential is there for Ruiz to win by stoppage or Joshua to win by KO. Don't forget in the third round when Joshua floored Ruiz everyone thought it was over and the fight was done! Everyone was ready to go home!
Joshua's vulnerability makes him interesting to watch, and that's part of what makes him popular. Against Klitschko he looked vulnerable and then came back to win. At times against Povetkin he looked vulnerable but came back. Can he do the same against Ruiz this time? Time will tell.
Of course, I work with the unified cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who makes his heavyweight debut this weekend in Chicago.
Let me tell you something: Usyk is gonna look fantastic at heavyweight. He’s going to be absolutely brilliant. He’s a legit heavyweight. The question people should be asking is how did he make cruiserweight for all these years, rather than how he’s going to do at heavyweight.
He's a special talent in any division. As a man, a person and a spiritual being, this guy is so special. He is without doubt one of the classiest fighters in boxing today. His conduct in and out of the ring is exemplary. The way he brings a certain level of respect and entertainment to the game, yet all the while he is a fierce competitor. I can't think of anyone else who carries themselves in the manner he does.
Usyk is a unique guy and you can't help but fall in love with him. I've never said this about anybody before, but I told Malik Scott once: "Malik, I'm sorry I can't say this about you, but Usyk is the kind of guy you want your daughter to bring home". That's how special he is and sometimes I have to pinch myself that I'm working with this guy.
Believe me, Usyk is going to be heavyweight champion of the world. He doesn't need to do anything special to fight at heavyweight. If anything his work was done when he used to have to get down to cruiser. He's happy right now and a happy Usyk is dangerous Usyk. He doesn't have to worry about making weight now and - believe me - he's a big guy. And don't forget he's heavier than Ali was when he won the title.
A strong and courageous guy like Usyk? I can't see him not winning the heavyweight title. I can certainly see Usyk beating everyone out there. I think he has the tools to beat everyone and unify the division. In all honesty the only fight for him that would worry me somewhat would be facing Wilder, purely because of the power in that right hand.
I spoke to Usyk the other day and he's fully recovered from his injuries. He's feels good about what he's doing and he's very happy. I'm really looking forward to Chicago.