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This night we all witnessed a confident victory of Olexandr Usyk over Murat Gassiev in the World Boxing Super Series final. In the cruiserweight division Ukrainian boxer in record time collected all the champions titles according to different versions (WBC, WBO, WBA, IBF) and got his place in boxing history. Now Usyk stands along with Hopkins, Taylor and Crawford, who also won all four championship belts in their weight. The Ukrainian boxer is the third absolute champion in history, but the first to achieve this with four champion belts.
In Moscow, against Gassiev, Usyk succeeded in the best fight in his professional career. He conducted a magnificent fight, very literate in terms of tactics and thought. We could observe a real aesthetics, an opera in the ring. All 12 rounds he kept pace, distance, controlling the opponent, throwing out a huge number of punches (939 and 242 exact) and only added energy in the championship rounds, when domination was merely apparent (in the 12th round 117 hits and 47 exact). We should also mention the defense of Ukrainian: classy footwork and excellent functional actions allowed stopping all attempts to attack the opponent. Gassiev with his punches created not a problem for Usyk but the draught for the people who were in the forefront, for which they should be grateful to him – it was hot in the sport complex. Usyk conducted an exemplary battle, with the speed of movement, which is comparable only with Vasyl Lomachenko. I do not remember seeing that in a heavy division before. Fast, elusive and tactically literate, he showed that he made conclusions about his flaws in Riga and squeezed the best of his box right now.
A wonderful fight, an excellent and confident victory, after which immediately we heard the talk about Olexander's transition to the heavyweight division. And he himself hinted about it in the ring immediately after the victory. You can understand the motives: the historical moment, when the Ukrainian became the absolute champion of the world, the temptation to go forward is great enough. But is Olexander Usyk ready for the transition to a heavier weight?
Of course, now, after a confident victory over the Russian, it seems that he is ready. However, it is worth recalling our fears after the fight with Myris Briedis, who revealed a lot of problems and, most importantly, the stagnation of the athlete. Usyk ceased to develop; it became apparent in the battle with the Latvian, where he managed to cope on his strong will and thanks to the talent inherent in him by nature.
Co-operation with coach Vatamanyuk did not bring any benefits, and it is doubly strange why Usyk extended his official separation in a matter of days before the final fight. For many of us yesterday, it was a surprise that the boxer Anatoly Lomachenko appeared in the corner. Usyk repeatedly stated that he would very much like to resume work with the coach, who formed him in amateurs. And even made such an attempt after parting with Bashyr in 2017. But then Anatoly referred to his son's career and did not officially cooperate with Usyk. Secretly, he helps Usyk even now. I do not know how closely they worked together in preparation for a fight with Gassiev but we saw that Usyk was extremely serious and adhered to the entire perfect plan for the fight, with the tips of Lomachenko in a corner, apparently. He found that balance, which he was lacking in the fight with Briedis at the beginning of the year. Obviously, the role of the coach is very important for Usyk, he repeatedly stated this, he repeated this yesterday after the battle he won.
Obviously, for Usyk it is psychologically comfortable to work with Lomachenko senior. He sees him not only as an experienced mentor but also an authority, not only in boxing. Prior to this, Usik did not develop good relations with coaches: his philosophy differed with Bashyr’s, and Vatamanyuk did not have enough weight and respect in Olexander's eyes. In this case, Usyk himself notes the importance of the coach: "I would not go out alone. I need help, too. Anyway, I would come out with someone.”
Therefore, when we talk about the prospects of Usyk's career, it is important to understand which coach will he work with? The ideal option is the participation of Anatoly Lomachenko, it is possible that for this Usyk will have to move to the United States. It will be difficult to storm the heavyweight division from Ukraine. Anyway, for success in the heavyweight division, Usyk needs a good coach. Olexander is not in such a phase of his career when he can control all the training processes independently. By and large, even Vladimir Klitschko lacked Emmanuel Steward at the end of his career. And Usyk yet has even less experience and merit.
We are delighted with the speed of movement and ease of Usyk’s actions in the ring, but we must understand that for the heavyweight division we must add weight, and this will necessarily affect the speed. At the same time, questions with the force of impact remain. Whatever it was, but this problem must be solved. What the cruiserweight forgives, the heavyweight division will not forgive. In professional boxing, it is important to inflict maximum damage to the opponent, and without a strong blow, it is more difficult to do. Yesterday, Usyk was very good at 89 kg, he worked with good timing and endurance. For the heavyweight division, he needs to add at least 10 kg (around 97-98), add power, but if possible - keep the speed. All this is quite realistic, Holyfield has already made such a trick, but only with the competent work of the team.
Former coach of Ukrainian Bashyr was optimistic about last year's development of Usyk's career in the heavyweight division: "Usyk will be helped by his IQ and character, he has a strong career in amateurs. He had to meet with various opponents, including those who were higher and who had stronger hands. It would be very difficult to fight against Anthony Joshua. This is the most difficult test, but it seems to me that in a couple of years he will be ready for Joshua as well. Joshua is the only boxer in the world whom I consider the favorite in a confrontation with Usyk, while the rest he can win now: both Parker and Wilder. "
Now it is important to calm down and make a competent decision. In his time, Usyk lost a couple of years in the amateurs; I would not want him to do something like this in the heavyweight division. On the other hand, throwing himself under a tank and be in a hurry to make the wrong steps in a career now will also be wrong. Therefore, a competent assessment of forces is important not only for Usyk himself but also for his team. Perhaps it makes sense to revenge with Briedis if the right money is offered for him. This fight will help to close all questions on the division and at the same time will allow us to assess Olexandr's prospects for moving to a heavier weight. Maybe we should immediately prepare for a fight with Tony Bellew, who himself left cruiserweight, which will be convenient enough for the debut of Usyk in the new weight. Especially since this fight will allow entering the British market, and it is now the main action for belts and money.
Usyk has already managed to give us a holiday and to cause pride for our compatriot. I really want him to maximize his potential and receive many great victories in the most prestigious weight category. But in pursuit of future victories it is important not to lose what is already there. And for this, it is important to have a thoughtful and clear career plan, similar to what he demonstrated against Gassiev last night. With an understanding of who will be the coach, how will he train and what to do with the speed, the effect of which can be leveled by a new weight. But it will be tomorrow, and today we are celebrating. Thank you, Olexandr!