Heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder: 'If Oleksandr Usyk was smart, he would stay at cruiserweight'

The sensational nature in which undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk knocked out Tony Bellew on Saturday has left fans and critics buzzing about the unbeaten Ukrainian's potential to conquer the heavyweight division. 

Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs), who continues to climb boxing's pound-for-pound rankings at a rapid pace, appears ready for a move up to the sport's glamour division and told reporters ahead of the Bellew fight that he's "on the road to [unified heavyweight champion] Anthony Joshua."

Not everyone is as convinced, however, that the 31-year-old Usyk will have success. In fact, unbeaten WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder delivered some stern advice to the World Boxing Super Series tournament champion on Thursday.

"I have to commend Bellew on what he did; Bellew was whooping his ass, let's just face it," Wilder told CBS Sports. "Bellew was whooping his ass. Bellew definitely gave people insight on what [Usyk] really was all about and I think he should stay at the cruiserweight division."

Usyk was patient in the early going against Bellew, the 35-year-old British star who gave him fits in the opening rounds with pinpoint counter punching. Bellew, who announced his retirement after the loss, was ahead on two of three scorecards at the time of Usyk's eighth-round stoppage.

"If [Usyk] was smart, he would stay at the cruiserweight division because when you start coming up in weight, you are going to have to gain some more weight and you are going to be slower than what you was already," Wilder said. "Tony Bellew was tearing him up and was already hitting him and when Usyk was pawing out with that jab, a lot of guys like me with longer arms is not going to take that jab to your face just pawing it. And you ain't touching him, just pawing him. We are going to take advantage of that."

At 6-foot-3, the southpaw Usyk has the height, speed and dynamic technical skill as a 2012 Olympic gold medalist to give many heavyweights fits. But considering this current renaissance within the division features a trio of super heavyweights (Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury) above 6-foot-6, the jury is still out as to whether Usyk has the chin or punching power to compete. 

"I advise him to stay at cruiserweight because when you start dealing with the elite in this division with these heavyweights, he's going to find that the power is different," Wilder said. "The weight is different. Can you hold that weight that you have to be up in there? You only have to be over 200 pounds, 201 to be exact. But will that be enough? Everybody is not the 'Bronze Bomber' and everybody is not Deontay Wilder. I can do it at a level that I can do it at because I have done it many times, but most guys feel they need that weight to do it. 

"But if he do come and he fights a legitimate heavyweight to officially announce himself at this weight, for me as a team, welcome. The more, the merrier."

Wilder returns on Dec. 1 to face the lineal champion Fury in a Showtime pay-per-view bout from Los Angeles. Asked ahead of the Bellew fight who he predicts will win, Usyk gave a colorful response that might've fueled Wilder's comments. 

"It's not a good thing to be a predictor," Usyk told Seconds Out. "I wish they would both punch each other at the same time and fall down together. Anyway, it's going to be a spectacular fight and I plan on watching.

"[As far as Joshua-Wilder,] I like Joshua better because he doesn't speak that much. I actually don't like boxers who talk too much."

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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