LONDON – Oleksandr Usyk had already proven his credentials as a truly special fighter during a phenomenal two-year career to become the undisputed cruiserweight champion.
But by ousting Anthony Joshua to become the IBF, WBO and WBA heavyweight world champion on Saturday night, he emerged as a genuine generational talent.
Usyk joins only Evander Holyfield and David Haye in winning world titles at both cruiserweight and heavyweight, and this was a victory that could hold its own in any era.
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In front of more than 65,000 Joshua fans, who crowded into Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Usyk organized a boxing clinic to claim a well-deserved unanimous decision (117-112, 116-112 and 115-113). He now has a legitimate claim to be the number one pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
Mexico’s three-weight world champion, Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, is widely considered the top of that hypothetical list by virtue of his success in those divisions in his 59 professional competitions.
But so good is Usyk’s 19-fight resume, plus the fact that he’s won all of his world title fights on the road, means he belongs in the conversation alongside the brilliant Mexican.
Oleksandr Usyk’s world title fights
One argument that carries a lot of weight in deciding which man is number one is that this victory in England’s capital is just as good, if not better, than any of Canelo’s victories.
Eddie Hearn, the show’s promoter, said: “I would personally put it in two, after Canelo. When he was at cruiserweight, everyone called him a top five pound for pound, but he moved up to heavyweight and got off people’s radar. But after that win, he has to be on everyone’s list.
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“Look at his resume, all these guys on the road, it’s amazing. Maybe we should have diverted it and put the belt in the trash, but that’s not what AJ is about. “
Usyk, meanwhile, has little interest in evaluating his standing among his peers. “I just want to live,” he said later, in the press conference room in the bowels of Tottenham’s stadium.
“I want to take my children to school, I want to plant trees, water the apple trees and see my wife more often. I spent three months in boot camp, I wish I could spend more time with my wife.
“I just want to live, I don’t really care what the critics say.
“There will always be people criticizing. I know what I’m doing. If I’m running, I don’t stop until I stop. If I’m swimming, I don’t stop until I’m almost drowning.
“I’m working really hard, so I don’t really care what people say or think of me.”
MORE: How Usyk’s Win Alters The Heavyweight Division
On his performance, Usyk smiled: “My plan was to go in, to see, in the 12th round they told me to put some speed, and then they said ‘and the new’.
“That was the plan and that’s what I did.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.