Oleksandr Usyk passed his first significant test at heavyweight with a unanimous points decision over the battle-hardened Dereck Chisora at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on Saturday night.
Scores were 117-112 and a too close for comfort 115-113 (twice).
Chisora (32-10, 23 KOs) made a predictable fast start before Usyk’s sharper work took over. Yet the gutsy Londoner negotiated some rough moments to deservedly last the course.
WBO No.1 contender Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) won handily but looked like he might struggle, size-wise, with the beasts of the division.
“I was very happy to be back in the ring,” Usyk told Matchroom afterwards. “I haven’t fought for more than a year. It was a huge pleasure for me. You saw my smile when I went into the ring. I really want to thank god for this victory. Dereck has big power, he has strong punches but I was prepared for it.
“I didn’t think about his boxing IQ. All I was thinking about was the boxing and what I wanted to do. I am very thankful for Dereck giving me this opportunity. I am very thankful to this family and his team. I am happy. He is a good man. Anthony [Joshua], how are you? I am coming for you.”
A deflated Chisora added: “I feel great. I was pushing the pace. I’m just disappointed with the result, gutted. To everybody who can’t make it [to the fight], I’m gutted for everybody. In the heavyweight game, you have to fight not box. I gave a couple of rounds away.”
Australian George Kambosos Jr. (19-0, 10 KOs) scored a merited split decision victory over former world champion Lee Selby (28-3, 9 KOs) in an IBF 135lbs title final eliminator.
Scores were 118-110, 116-112 and 114-115.
Kambosos, a regular sparring partner of Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao, is now in line for a shot at undisputed lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez in 2021.
“I can’t get this smile off my face,” saidKambosos. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. I dug deep and I won a lot of them rounds. The big shots landed and I thought he was hurt a few times. That’s a former world champion. The guy is still a very respected fighter. It was a great win. That’s two former world champions [I’ve beaten] in their backyards. I’m a road warrior. I’m a proud Aussie. I knew I won the fight. The whole time people thought I was being arrogant. I was never arrogant to him. It’s just confidence and self-belief. I’m a young hungry lion. I was never arrogant to him. I respect him.
“I knew the job I would do. I’m a confident fighter and I back my ability. I thought I hurt him a few times and I thought he nearly went. He’s an experienced guy and he beat Ricky Burns in his last fight. I’m the young hungry guy coming up. That was a great win. That’s another twelve rounds in my bank. The body shots busted him up. The right hand to the body, the stiff jab to the body. I was very composed. I feel like I’m in my prime. There’s so much more work to do. I’m coming for the unified lightweight world title against Teofimo Lopez. Two young hungry fighters!”
Hartlepool’s Savannah Marshall (9-0, 7 KOs) outclassed Glasgow’s brave but outgunned Hannah Rankin (9-5, 2 KOs) in seven rounds to earn the vacant WBO middleweight title.
A dominant Marshall dropped Rankin with a left hook in the seventh before referee Phil Edwards waved it off.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” Marshall told Matchroom. “Fair play to Hannah. She’s an amazing fighter with big heart and I’ve got loads of respect for her. I’m just thrilled to bits. I knew I was good enough. I’ve always known I was good enough. The chances have just never been there for me. Thank god it came tonight. Me and Hannah sold that fight, we really sold that fight. I don’t know what it was like for her but there was no real bad blood there for me.
“With [trainer] Peter [Fury] testing positive [for Covid-19] two weeks ago, I thought that was just typical me! I just had to ride the wave. I think England has got the best female professional boxers. Covid was a blessing because it’s brought them all out. It’s just a dream.
“The pool isn’t that big at the higher weights. I’d like to go up to super-middleweight. I’m not really interested in super-welter. I think my power stays at middle. I’ve just battered Claressa Shields’ mate. I’ve just battered her best mate. I’m sure she said Hannah was going to stop me. So what does that say about her boxing IQ. She couldn’t get Rankin out of there. Hannah is a brave fighter. Claressa couldn’t do that. Me against Shields is the biggest fight in women’s boxing. Let’s get it on. I want a piece of it.”
Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy (17-2, 8 KOs) claimed the vacant European cruiserweight title with a majority decision over Belgian Bilal Laggoune (25-2-2, 14 KOs).
Scores were 116-112, 116-113 and 114-114.
“I’m over the moon,” McCarthy told Matchroom. “It’s taken a lifetime of work to get to this point. This is just the beginning for me. I want bigger and better things. I’m so happy and proud of myself. I’m proud of my team. I can’t even remember what the scores were to be honest, but as long as they had me winning, that’s all that matters. It’s surreal. I thought I was going to start bawling my eyes out. I couldn’t go back home and have everyone slagging me for being a cry baby! I held it together and I’m still holding it together! I’m emotional because this has been a long time coming.
“I’ve been knocking on the door for a long time. Now it’s all starting to come into play. I’d like to shout out my team; Mark Dunlop, Pete Taylor and everyone else for making this possible. Next year I would love to fight Mairis Briedis. He’s the number one cruiserweight in the world, and I want to be number one. He is the guy I want, but I’d take any one of them to be honest. Anyone who has a belt, big Mac is onto you! I know my family are proud. I’m looking forward to getting home to them in the morning. Hopefully they will spoil me, I don’t want to do any housework for the next two weeks!
“I should probably thank Richard Riakporhe for giving me the kick up the ass that I needed. It’s never happening again [losing]. I’m here now. I’m the champion of Europe. The world is my oyster. Peter has moulded me into the boxer that I knew I always could be. This is the one thing that I know I can do very well. I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me doing it. Shout out to everybody in West Belfast and shout out to everyone in Greater Belfast.”
Southam’s Amy Timlin (4-0-1, 0 KOs) and Liverpool southpaw Carly Skelly (3-0-1, 0 KOs) battled to a 10-round draw for the vacant Commonwealth super-bantamweight title.
Scores were 96-95 (Timlin), 97-96 (Skelly) and 95-95.
“It was heartbreaking because I’ve trained so hard for it,” Timlin told Sky Sports afterwards. “You can’t really fault the result because it was a close fight, and I thought I won some rounds and she won some rounds. I think it was a fair decision. I would love to do that fight again. I think styles make fights. That was a really good fight and I’d love to do the rematch. It could have gone either way.”
Skelly added: “It’s frustrating. It was quite close early on but I thought I came on stronger at the end. It’s hard to say. I’ll have to watch it back and see what I think. I thought I done enough. Just being here tonight was a boss opportunity for the both of us. Hopefully, we get to do it again and we’ll get it decided in the next one. One hundred per cent, I’d do it again.”
London lightweight Ramla Ali (1-0, 0 KOs) won her pro debut with a one-sided points win over German Eva Hubmayer (1-1, 1 KO). Referee Robert Williams scored 60-54.
“I’m not going to say I was crap, but I was a bit disappointed with how I performed tonight,” Ali told Matchroom afterwards. “I allowed her, being a shorter opponent, to get into range way too much. I think it was just the nerves kicking in with it being my professional debut. I think I let all of that get to me and I allowed her to get into range. I should have kept her long. I think that’s what I’m most disappointed with.
“I think I’ve been promised an opportunity on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev unless things chance, so I’m really hoping to have another fight this year. The last fight I had was in February. It has been a long time out. They always say you get quite rusty when you come back in. I’m hoping to improve on tonight’s performance in December for sure. I hope I was entertaining. I hope people enjoyed watching me tonight.”
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.