Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk made the most of his heavyweight debut, stopping late substitute Chazz Witherspoon by seventh-round TKO in the main event at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) surgically dissected his opponent in methodical fashion after a slow start. Witherspoon – who replaced Tyrone Spong earlier in the week after a failed drugs test, was a huge underdog so the result was perhaps unsurprising.
Witherspoon, 38 (38-4, 29 KOs) had very little to offer in return and ended up being a glorified punching bag for Usyk’s ring return after an 11-month absence.
Usyk, 32, got off to a slow start working mostly behind the jab to establish distance and assess his opponent. This allowed Witherspoon to land a couple of shots and take the first round.
The Ukranian continued to increase his activity over the next few rounds displaying good footwork and a stinging jab.
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) October 13, 2019
By the fourth round, Witherspoon was swinging and missing miserably as the Usyk countered, displaying power in both hands.
Round six saw Usyk pin Witherspoon against the ropes and wobble him with a hard left hand followed by a right hook.
By the time the seventh round began, Witherspoon had already been broken down and was sufficiently ripe for the taking. Usyk took advantage by bouncing punches off the head and body.
It was becoming increasingly hard to watch with the American unable to land anything significant and simply absorbing punishment while the referee kept a close watch.
After seeing the damage Witherspoon took in the last 90 seconds of the seventh round, his corner wisely called the fight off telling the referee that he could no longer continue.
The victory formally announced Usyk’s arrival in the heavyweight division where he is expected to be a major threat.
Usyk made headlines several days ago in an interview with Behind the Gloves when discussing his potential rivals.
“The hardest would be Tyson Fury. And Deontay Wilder is the easiest. I just want to fight him. He has the belt.”
Of course this was a partial rebuttal to Wilder’s earlier dismissal of him as being too small to be a legitimate threat to the WBC titleholder.
It will be interesting to see how well the former undisputed champion would do against the winner of Ruiz Jr-Joshua II as the WBO mandatory challenger or against Wilder.
Time will tell if Usyk is indeed the real deal, but many fans will like what they saw Saturday night.
Bivol outpoints Castillo to retain WBA light heavyweight championship
In another mismatch, in an otherwise packed night of boxing, Dmitry Bivol knocked down and outpointed Lenin Castillo over twelve mostly uneventful rounds in the co-feature to retain his WBA light heavyweight strap.
Bivol (17-0, 11 KOs) controlled the entire fight against Castillo (20-3-1, 15 KOs) however, it was not impressive. He appeared content to throw the jab to the stomach and then occasionally follow-up by going upstairs.
The crowd in the Wintrust Arena expressed their displeasure with the lack of action with boos and to seemingly encourage Bivol to take Castillo out.
The one highlight in this bout was when Bivol finally put Castillo down in the sixth with a stinging right hand to the jaw midway through the round. The Puerto Rican did not appear badly hurt though and beat the count to continue.
Bivol successfully made his sixth straight defence of the title, taking a unanimous decision. However, he failed to impress tonight by taking a head-scratching, safety-first approach against an opponent who he should have been able to put away.
The 28-year old Russian hopes to land a unification bout next year and made that clear in his post-fight remarks.
“I want to make my mark in boxing history and to do this you have to fight the best,” Bivol said.
“Of course, I want to fight against the other champions but sometimes you cannot do it because they are busy, but we have had good fights and I am happy with that.”
Those other champions include the likes of WBO titlist Sergey Kovalev, IBF king Artur Beterbiev and WBC titleholder Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
Elsewhere on the undercard, unified world champion Jessica McCaskill retained her WBC and WBA titles in a rematch victory over Erica Farias and the Chicago native called for a rematch with Katie Taylor post-fight.
Whilst there were wins for exciting American prospects Anthony Sims Jr and Otha Jones III.
Full undercard results:
Jessica McCaskill bt Erica Farias- MD
Otha Jones III bt Eric Manriquez- MD
Anthony Sims Jr bt Morgan Fitch- TKO
Charles Conwell bt Patrick Day- KO
TJ Doheny bt Jesus Martinez- TKO
Summer Lynn bt Jenna Thompson- UD