Oleksandr Usyk makes his long-awaited heavyweight debut this weekend in Chicago although he faces an unexpected opponent. Usyk was due to take on Tyrone Spong but an adverse doping test has resulted in Chazz Witherspoon stepping in as a late replacement.


Usyk stepping up with big reputation

Usyk has been out of the ring since last November but the Ukraine southpaw is looking to make up for lost time with a big performance after his move into the heavyweight division.

The 32-year-old was in a class of his own at cruiserweight level and he has decided to step up in weight as he hunts for a heavyweight title.

Usyk has a fearsome unbeaten record of 16 wins as a professional with 12 inside the distance. He stopped his first nine opponents, before winning the WBO world cruiserweight title with a points victory against Krzysztof Glowacki three years ago.

His decision to compete in the World Boxing Super Series paid off handsomely after becoming the unified world champion.


Usyk’s first fight in the tournament resulted in a tenth round knockout of Marco Huck in 2017. He added the WBC belt after defeating Mairis Breidis on points at the start of last year.

Usyk unified the cruiserweight division in 2018 by winning the WBA and IBF titles after a unanimous decision victory against Murat Gassiev in Moscow.

Tony Bellew took up the challenge of facing the undefeated boxer in Manchester last November but it proved a step too far for the former world champion as Usyk finished him off with a powerful left hook in the eighth round.

The defeat marked the end of Bellew’s career but it is just the start for Usyk as he announced his decision to move into the heavyweight division.

But he was forced to pull out of a proposed fight with Carlos Takam in May due to a bicep injury. The rescheduled fight with Takam fell through and Usyk will now get his chance to take out his frustration on his latest opponent.


Witherspoon looking to grasp surprise opportunity

Witherspoon has been handed a golden opportunity at the last minute although the 38-year-old will have to pull off a huge upset.

The American, who is a cousin of former heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon, has 38 wins and three defeats to his name.

Witherspoon has only had two fights in the last three years though, with his most recent bout a second-round stoppage against Santander Silgado in March.

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - APRIL 28: Chazz Witherspoon (silver trunks) throws a punch against Seth Mitchell (black trunks) during their NABO Heavyweight Title fight at Boardwalk Hall Arena on April 28, 2012 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)


Usyk v Witherspoon: The verdict

Usyk was an overwhelming favourite against Spong and facing an opponent that has had less than a week’s notice will only shorten the odds on his chances of a winning start as a heavyweight.

The unbeaten boxer is 1/100 to win with Witherspoon 16/1 to pull off a massive upset. It is hard to foresee this though and Usyk should make an impact by stopping his late replacement.

It is just 1/14 for Usyk to win inside the distance and it could be worth backing a short-lived contest in Chicago. Usyk has been itching to get back in the ring and will be determined to produce a devastating performance.

The ageing Witherspoon is unlikely to be able to live with Usyk’s exceptional footwork and his pace. Usyk will expect to make a statement by stopping his opponent early and there is value in backing the fight to last no more than three rounds.

Under 3.5 rounds 11/10

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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