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Superfight: Oleksander Usyk V Andre S.O.G Ward

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“You will believe,” said the not yet unifed cruiserweight world champion Oleksander Usyk (16-0, 12KOs), at a press event in Times Square to announce Sergey Kovalev V Eleider Alvarez before attending Vasyl Lomachenko V Jorge Linares later at Madison Square Garden.
Peering down on me with eyes part Frankenstein and James Bond while donning a sleek athletic suit, Usyk presents a serious presence from Ukraine with the calm confidence of a brain surgeon. Still, I’m not convinced he’ll survive the thudding power of “Iron” Murat Gassiev in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, prompting the above response. After performing surgery on IMG in an instant classic, do believe, and don’t believe Tony Bellew will survive the distance with what appears to be one of the greatest 190lb fighters of all-time.
That position, in addition to FOTY honors, is bolstered by the road warrior’s problem solving, come-from-behind 8th round evisceration of an inspired Bellew before a legion of his own maniac fans.
It was a legendary performance, evoking an imaginary setting in Oakland and a confrontation with unbeaten ring immortal Andre Ward. I know he was watching with keen interest; perhaps thinking “I see something”, ala Sugar Ray Leonard in skyscraping Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Could Ward return to scale the heights of Usyk? Legends never truly die in their own mind, making it entirely possible that Ward could somehow manage to put Usyk together and take him apart. Would he build from where he left off in Kovalev II? Or, is his future a part of the past?
WHO WINS?

Oleksander Usyk possesses all of the tools necessary to enter the realm of Andre’s oppressive Ward and prevail. Lost in S.O.G’s terse November 2016 survival of a then still special Sergey Kovalev, was that there was never anything particularly special about the physical or mental conditioning of “Krusher”. Those very same issues were exacerbated to greater affect by the calculated Ward in their June 2017 rematch, also won via 8th round mugging. Usyk doesn’t really do anything “Hi-Tech”, nor does he have a gaudy nickname like Vasyl Lomachenko. However, an uncommon trait the world’s best cruiserweight shares with the pound-for-pound champion, is conditioning so superlative that it may in fact even surpass that of Loma, considering his height and weight. A major factor to consider in this match-up.

The best conditioned version of Ward I’ve ever seen was the June 2015 edition confronted by car mechanic Paul Smith (well, he trained like one anyway) after nearly two years away from the ring with myriad outside issues. I don’t see Andre returning to that level of fitness (he rented a small, dingy apartment and went Clubber Lang for that one), nor do I see the mentally powerful Usyk being lured into a situation where he allows Ward to lower his punch count or pace dramatically; maintaining just enough space to avoid excessive clinching and coming up with enough movement from uncanny angles to bedevil the Son of God in the middle of the ring.
For the first six rounds, Bellew was in a zone exceeding his talent, winning four of those rounds on my scorecard before physical limitation started to set in. It’s conceivable that a comebacking Andre could give Usyk about nine of the first five rounds Bellew produced– with more danger. Ward would absolutely look to cause doubt in Usyk, unleashing sneaky individual power shots laced in acid to steal rounds, or set-up an opportunity to get Usyk hurt just enough to go for a stoppage. We’re talking about a bona fide all-time great in Ward, so that’s very possible. But logic and every other metric suggests that Usyk would make Ward a prisoner of the championship round moments, pulling away like a vintage Usain Bolt would in the final 30 meters.

For the legend who exited the sweet science as the game’s best (Andre is now the best on-air analyst in boxing among retired fighters), I think this bout would be too much for Ward to overcome, because all Usyk would do is consider this fight an opportunity to win the Muhammad Ali Trophy as if he’d never won the World Boxing Super Series over Murat Gassiev. Obsessed with perfection, Usyk would get his Picasso, introducing the great Andre Ward to his first defeat since the age of 12 via unanimous decision.

Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of upcoming book, "The Fist Club." Conscious indie recording artist "T@z" and humanist advocate for the Green Party.

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