Strip away the Sky Sports Box Office artifice and Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs, beforehand) vs Dereck Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs) was a simple fight. The new, shiny prospect (or at least someone fresh to the division in Usyk) testing his credentials against an established gatekeeper in Chisora. And, come the night, the end result and performances didn’t do a great deal to challenge that.
My own pre-fight belief that Usyk would be simply too skilful for Chisora to even look vaguely competitive was wide of the mark, however, as ‘Del Boy’ started the contest extremely well. Although looking strangely tentative during the ring walk, the Londoner came out for the first two rounds aggressive, using his near three stone weight advantage to push Usyk around the ring.
Although Chisora never landed a huge shot, his looping right hands and volume punching to the body troubled the Ukrainian. Usyk gained little control or traction until the third round. Even then, Chisora was wise enough to time his charges, waiting until the close of the round to come on strong again. This set the pattern for the rest of the fight. Usyk increasingly looking comfortable and relaxed with Chisora tired and trying to pick his spots.
From the fourth round, Usyk timed Chisora beautifully coming in, landing short and sharp jabs, hooks and uppercuts. Although not particularly eye-catching to some, they were hurtful and accurate shots, which quickly began to deter Chisora’s aggression and plan to work when within firing range. Usyk’s vaunted footwork began to become even more telling as the rounds wore on, coming in and out of range and circling to Chisora’s left and right, causing the Londoner to fall into a pattern of following the Ukrainian around the ring.
All of this allowed Usyk to begin to open up more in the middle stages of the fight, as he hurt Chisora repeatedly with clean hooks to the temple. Indeed, Chisora was visibly staggered in the seventh by such a shot, although this was the only time he looked truly hurt in the whole fight.
Chisora rallied late on, although still in a largely ineffectual way, as Usyk seemed to decide seeing the fight out was preferable to going for a statement stoppage. The performance has left some saying that the former undisputed cruiserweight champion will be some way off challenging for honours at heavyweight, whilst others have said it proves the exact opposite. The truth is perhaps somewhere in between; Usyk wasn’t at his best, but he also dealt well with a motivated and dangerous fighter for large stretches of the fight.
The rest of the card was marred by last minute issues and, quite frankly, someway off what a PPV spectacle should be. Its main highlight was Savannah Marshall’s WBO middleweight title victory over Hannah Rankin. Both fighters are humble and likable outside of the ring, and that was replicated in a pair of gutsy and honest performances. Marshall, more clinical and composed throughout, scored a stoppage in the seventh round in what could hopefully prove to be a breakout win.
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.