Oleksandr Usyk is not the first unified cruiserweight champion to embark on a run towards the world heavyweight title. Evander Holyfield did it back in the 1990’s and remains the only fighter in history to become undisputed in both divisions.
One major thing the Ukrainian has going for him is a long-standing Holyfield record Usyk smashed in 2016. The amateur star won a world crown at 200 pounds in just his tenth fight. This success came after claiming Olympic gold at the 2012 Olympics.
Holyfield, on the back of bronze in 1984, won his in what was a twelfth contest in the pro ranks. Like Usyk, ‘The Real Deal’ eventually held all the marbles.
Usyk is now a big part of the top division after making his pro debut earlier this year.
Holyfield sees the 32 year-old facing a mammoth task due to the sheer size of those currently holding belts at 200 pounds plus.
Initially asked about the achievement Usyk managed in a short space of time, Holyfield revealed a chance meeting between the pair.
“I’ve run into him once. I’m happy for him. People don’t realize records are made to be broken,” Holyfield exclusively told World Boxing News. “When people break records it shows you that the boxing game is getting better. Somebody is taking it to another level.
“There’re loads of people out there willing to teach people how to fight that’s the only way records can be broken.
“So, when I found out that he broke my record, he became champion earlier than me, I did it 12 and he did it in 10 [he laughs]. Well okay, it shows that it can be done.
“If you have a good amateur background, it doesn’t take all that when you have a good amateur background because you’re a lot faster than these other people who would be champion.
“When you just fresh getting out the amateurs your skills are crisp. When you’re a good amateur fighter you keep your hands up you aren’t resting all the time, you want to fight which I know only the people who are going to break the records are good amateurs come right on in and willing to take a chance.
“The pros take too much time to warm up.”
On having the likes of Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury blocking his way to the top, Holyfield revealed what Usyk must do to compete and possibly win.
“You know who he’s going to have to fight, those three guys. So you’ve got to be able to take a punch. And you have to know how to box. Also, you’ve got to have a good inside game.
“(There’s also the potential that) You’re dealing with Andy Ruiz. Now that’s a guy who fights the inside game. He’s young and either way, it’s going to be tough.
“Usyk has the brain for speed and finesse. You gotta be in better shape than all of them because that’s what he has to do if he wants to beat them.”
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay