Oleksandr Usyk doesn’t have the power to excite fight fans or earn the respect of the top heavyweights, according to former foe Michael Hunter. 

In his cruiserweight pomp, Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) outfoxed Hunter in a WBO title defence in April 2017, the American’s only defeat as a professional. Both men subsequently moved to heavyweight, with Usyk first earning undisputed honours at cruiser and winning the WBSS tournament against another future heavy in Murat Gassiev.

Usyk is now the WBO’s No.1 contender at heavyweight and poised to meet Londoner Joe Joyce for the organisation’s ‘Interim’ crown to allow the projected Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury undisputed title fight to go ahead with all four belts on the line.

But Hunter (19-1-1, 13 KOs), who is set to meet Filip Hrgovic in an IBF title eliminator in the summer, believes Usyk’s lack of power and excitement level limits his horizons at heavyweight.

“He is a fully fledged heavyweight. He’s taller than me. He’s a small fully-fledged heavyweight, but I think that it’s going to be very hard for Usyk to get heavyweight fights. I think that other heavyweights don’t see him as a heavyweight,” Hunter told Sky Sports.

“Another thing I think he’s going to have a problem with is people want to see [fighters] getting knocked out and coming off the canvas [at heavyweight]. He doesn’t do any of that or have any of those components.

“Even like myself, I’m more of a boxer-puncher, [but] I’ll put myself on the line, or go forward to get the knockout. Go above and beyond just protecting yourself at all times. That’s one thing that I don’t think he can do is, because he’s really a pure boxer. To be a fighter and to try to do that as a heavyweight, I think that will be setting yourself up for failure.

“I thought the Joe Joyce fight was probably the good route for him. The only route I can see him actually going. I don’t see him, other than getting a mandatory, and somebody that he can probably easily outbox. But nobody is going to really respect him. He’s not going to get those big fights.

“None of the big guys want to lose by a paintbrush and not know how to come back in the next fight and fix it.”

Feature images: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing