Cruiserweight Stephen Simmons knows he has a difficult task on his hands when he faces Oleksandr Usyk next month, but remains confident of causing a major upset.
Simmons (14-1,6 KO) will travel to Usyk’s hometown of Kiev on April 23 to challenge for the WBO Inter-Continental belt and aims to steal the Ukrainian’s mandatory world title spot.
The 29-year old Usyk – an Olympic gold medallist – is already touted as one of the best cruiserweights in the world, having so far stopped all nine of his opponents inside the scheduled distance.
Simmons himself has only lost once in his career – a knockout defeat to Jon-Lewis Dickinson early last year – and has since won three fights on the spin. Even so, his upcoming bout with the southpaw Usyk will be his toughest challenge to date, but one that has a ‘massive reward.’
“When I got offered this fight by my team and they asked if I was willing to take it – I bit their hand off,” Simmons exclusively told World Boxing News.
“It’s a tough and risky challenge for me, but one that has massive rewards.
“I’ve been looking for a big fight since the start of the year and I was originally offered to face Mairis Briedis for the IBF Inter-Continental crown, but due to the fact there was only six weeks to prepare for that and it was just after the New year I rejected that offer.
“After that, I spoke to my team and said after March if anything big comes up I will be fit and ready to take it. Usyk was that fight and my management team in Marbella were more than happy for me to take it because I’m confident of winning.”
Although the fight is taking place in Usyk’s backyard – where he has a huge following – Simmons is not at all daunted by the task ahead and draws on the positives from his previous encounter with the Ukrainian from their amateur days
He said: “If anything I am really excited about it all. I’ve fought in Ukraine before when I was an amateur, so I know what it is all about. He is an idol over there and sells out arenas, so I know it will be very hostile, but that is all part of the sport.
“I boxed Usyk at the world championships in the amateurs and he beat me on points, so we’ve already shared a ring and I know I can get the better of him. This is the right time for me.”
If Simmons does get victory next month, it will earn him a shot at the WBO world title, currently held by Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki – who won the belt by stopping Marco Huck last August in a fight of the year contender.
“I haven’t actually seen much of Glowacki; only really the Huck fight and he looked strong and tough. It would mean everything to earn a shot at the world title, but I can’t in no way look past Usyk who is one of the best fighters in the world and to be the best you have to beat the best.”
Matt Horan is a lead writer for WBN. Follow on Twitter @mhoran123