Oleksandr Usyk vs. Chazz Witherspoon fight preview, start time, card, prediction, live stream
The much anticipated heavyweight debut of Usyk takes place on Saturday night in Chicago
As far as heavyweight debuts are concerned, Oleksandr Usyk has had a difficult time making the kind of resounding statement many anticipated.
Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs), who capped off 2018 by becoming the first four-belt undisputed cruiserweight champion and sending Tony Bellew to retirement via knockout, has seen his much-hyped move up to boxing's glamour division routinely slowed by injury and happenstance.
A native of Ukraine, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist finally returns Saturday (DAZN, 9 p.m. ET) at Wintrust Arena in Chicago against a late replacement in 38-year-old Chazz Witherspoon (38-3, 29 KOs) who does anything but elicit the idea of danger or hectic competition. Still, Usyk's assault on the heavyweight division has fans interested due to his lofty intentions after this weekend.
Usyk, a 32-year-old southpaw, certainly brings good size to heavyweight at 6-foot-3 yet the real intrigue will be seeing how his sublime boxing skills mesh with the best in the division considering he's not known as a huge puncher. The journey to find out that answer has been an arduous one.
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Originally, Usyk had talked about moving quick and making a splash by facing someone the caliber of former secondary titleholder Alexander Povetkin. Talks quickly shifted to another durable veteran in Carlos Takam until a torn right biceps injury forced Usyk to pull out of their originally scheduled date of May 25.
Usyk was ultimately forced to settle for Tyrone Spong, a former kickboxing star with power and an unbeaten record, until a failed drug test for the banned substance clomiphene saw him pulled from the fight on Monday. Given the extreme late notice, Witherspoon brings both a name and a decent record as the second cousin of former heavyweight titleholder Tim Witherspoon but not much more.
Although Witherspoon is 8-0 since 2012, the level of opposition he has faced has been dismal. Before that, he lost definitively (twice by knockout and once by disqualification) in the three times he has stepped up in class. Among those defeats was a 2012 TKO loss against Seth Mitchell who ultimately failed his attempt to convert from a college football background to become a serviceable heavyweight.
Usyk kept his words short and sweet when asked about Spong's failed test during an interview this week with IFL TV, saying, "I don't even want to talk about this, I think this is very dirty stuff." He had even less to say about Witherspoon.
"I'm going to say a few words from a bible which says, 'prepare your horse for the war and winning will come from the God,'" Usyk said.
What Usyk is hoping for is a title shot in his next bout and has been steadfast since he first announced a move to heavyweight that he wants the biggest challenges possible. Although it's possible he could loom as a candidate to face the winner of the Dec. 7 rematch between Anthony Joshua and unified champion Andy Ruiz Jr. (particularly if Joshua wins given that Usyk fights on DAZN), Usyk would prefer unbeaten WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
"Of course I want to fight [Joshua and lineal champion Tyson Fury] but right now at this point, the most I want to fight, I want to fight Wilder because he has a belt in green and green is my most important color," Usyk said. "I challenge Wilder. I am ready to fight him in his hometown."
"He says I'm not a threat to him, so I'm ready to show him what I am. He [will] not even win a round with me, I am the best in the world."
Wilder remains busy, of course, having scheduled rematches against Luis Ortiz on Nov. 24 and Fury for Feb. 22. "The Bronze Bomber" also made headlines earlier this month by saying Usyk "isn't a threat to me" and that "he's too small."
In the co-main event, Dmitry Bivol puts his WBA light heavyweight title on the line against Lenin Castillo. The 28-year-old from Russia will be looking to make his fifth defense of the strap after securing the full belt by first-round knockout in 2017. All of his defenses have come via unanimous decision.
Oleksandr Usyk vs. Chazz Witherspoon
Dmitry Bivol (c) vs. Lenin Castillo
WBA light heavyweight title
Anthony Sims Jr. vs. Morgan Fitch
How to watch
Date: Oct. 12, 2019 | Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Wintrust Arena -- Chicago
Broadcast/Stream: DAZN (subscription required)
Usyk is simply on another level when it comes to footwork, hand speed and angles against bigger fighters and that should only be amplified at heavyweight. While he still needs to prove his chin and durability can last in a higher division against elite talent, we simply aren't likely to find that out against Witherspoon.
Look for Usyk to pick apart his plodding opponent with ease before ultimately stopping him. It may have taken longer than expected to get to this point, but Usyk will still be able to deliver a strong opening statement in a long-awaited heavyweight debut.
Pick: Usyk via TKO6
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