Oleksandr Usyk made his Heavyweight debut just over a year ago, in what was his last appearance, and now the former undisputed cruiserweight champion faces a test against perennial British gatekeeper, Dereck Chisora, who simply refuses to go away at the top level at The SSE Arena, Wembley on Saturday on Sky Sports Box Office and DAZN in the USA.
Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) has designs on becoming a two-weight world champion, and is already WBO mandatory for champion Anthony Joshua.
A 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist, Usyk won the World Boxing Super Series thrashing Murat Gassiev on the cards to claim the Russian’s WBA (Super) and IBF titles, as well as the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy, becoming the first undisputed Cruiserweight champion since Evander Holyfield.
There was only one defence made, again on the road, as he allowed Tony Bellew to rack up a lead, before taking his tiring foe out with a single left hand in the eighth in London in November 2018, and it would be eleven months before Usyk returned, this time at Heavyweight, where he retired Chazz Witherspoon in seven rounds.
Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs) will represent a stiffer test for Usyk, but the Ukrainian will start as a heavy favourite.
The Brit is in the last knockings of a long and hard career, and a bad defeat here could really spell the beginning of the end for the 36-year-old.
Chisora has won British and European crowns, fought for a world title, and has been in with and lost to some quality operators such as Vitali Klitschko, now manager David Haye, Tyson Fury (twice) and Kubrat Pulev to name a few.
After disappointing against Pulev in May 2016, he then redeemed himself in a thriller with Dillian Whyte, losing a narrow split decision in December of the same year.
Chisora was in the last chance saloon again nearly a year on, when dropping a split decision to Agit Kabayel in Monaco, but again redeemed himself with a sensational come from behind stoppage of Carlos Takam in August 2018.
That win led to a rematch with Whyte, but ‘War’ Chisora would suffer heartbreak when ahead on two cards, as Whyte scored an eleventh round knockout at the O2.
Since that defeat, Chisora is on a three-fight winning streak, knocking out former world title challenger, Arthur Szpilka in two in July last year, before stopping David Price in four in his last outing in October 2019.
Prediction: Usyk is more than comfortable in letting his opponent build a lead, and gain confidence, before pulling the rug from underneath their feet.
Chisora will put pressure on Usyk early on, but the Ukrainian can frustrate Dereck with his fleet of foot and boxing skills to eventually break the Brit down in the second half of the fight, via stoppage or retirement.
Heading up the undercard is former world champion Lee Selby (28-2, 9 KOs), and the Welshman is looking for a world title at a second weight.
First, he must get past Australia’s George Kambosos Jr (18-0, 10 Os), with the winner booking a shot at Teofimo Lopez, as this rescheduled clash doubles up as a final eliminator for the IBF Lightweight title.
Selby’s career has stalled somewhat since his greatest night, when he defeated Evgeny Gradovich via technical decision for the IBF Featherweight crown in London.
He defended four times, all on the scorecards, but was then relieved of the title by Josh Warrington at Elland Road in May 2018, as the Leeds native took a deserved, upset split decision verdict.
Since that night, the 33-year-old has only fought twice, and has jumped up two weight classes in the process.
His last fight came in October last year, when he took a scrappy majority win over four-weight world champion, Ricky Burns.
Kambosos will come from Down Under to win, and he hasn’t previously tasted defeat.
He fights in Britain for the first time, having competed in Greece, Malaysia and the USA, as well as his native Australia.
‘Ferocious’ best win came last time out, in December 2019, where he scraped past Cleveland’s former IBF Lightweight champion, Mickey Bey, needing a last round knockdown to take a split decision.
Prediction: Selby hasn’t been impressive in his last few fights, but will want to secure one last hurrah by defeating Kambosos to book a world title shot. I think he will have too much speed and movement for the visitor, and he can take a deserved win on the scorecards.
Another postponed bout, this time with a delay of just two weeks due to a positive Peter Fury COVID test, sees Savannah Marshall (8-0, 6 KOs) step out of the shadows, as she aims to fulfil her massive potential, by winning the vacant WBO Middleweight title, left behind by her amateur rival, Claressa Shields.
The two are on a collision course again, with Marshall the last person to defeat Shields in the unpaid code.
It’s the first real test of the Hartlepool native’s career, as she meets Scotland’s Hannah Rankin (9-4, 2 KOs) for the title.
Rankin is a former IBO Super Welterweight champion, and took Shields the full ten rounds in 2018 in a challenge for the WBC, WBA and IBF Middleweight belts.
The 30-year-old has challenged three times in total for versions of world titles, and lost on the cards each time.
Prediction: Marshall should be able to add to that tally by taking a clear points win in this one.
European title action comes at Cruiserweight, where Belfast-based Tommy McCarthy (16-2, 8 KOs) contests the vacant strap against Belgium’s Bilal Laggoune (25-1-2, 14 KOs).
McCarthy earns his shot off the back of an impressive away win in Italy, where he took a split decision win against Fabio Turchi.
Laggoune has previously challenged for the belt in October 2015, drawing with Dmytro Kucher.
Prediction: McCarthy should be able to take a deserved win on the scorecards.
It doesn’t feel like much of a pay-per-view event without the ‘Doncaster De La Hoya’ and Dave Allen (18-5-2, 15 KOs) appears on the card at Heavyweight, under new trainer, Jamie Moore.
The Conisbrough crowd favourite was due to take on Christian Hammer, but the German returned a positive COVID 19 test.
Instead, Allen meets the largely unknown Christopher Lovejoy (19-0, 19 KOs), a Las Vegas native who has yet to hear a final bell and holds a #15 ranking with the WBO.
‘Pretty Boy’ has a heavily padded record, having never faced a man with a winning record until now.
Prediction: Allen should be able to remove Lovejoy early.
The vacant Commonwealth Super Bantamweight title is on the line, as two novices battle for the belt.
Warwickshire’s Amy Timlin (4-0)and Liverpool’s Carly Skelly (3-0) collide in good TV exposure for both.
Prediction: I fancy Timlin to prevail in on points.
A late addition to the card is Kash Farooq (13-1, 6 KOs) and the outright Lonsdale Belt holder at Bantamweight makes his Matchroom debut in what should be a straightforward affair against Martin Tecuapetla (15-12-4, 10 KOs).
Prediction: Farooq may want to bank some rounds to shake off any rust he may have from his last outing, a tight, disputed points defeat to Lee McGregor and the visitor has only been stopped twice in a dozen defeats, so it should be a routine points win for the Scot.