Oleksander Uysk rose to 8-0 Saturday in Kiev, Ukraine at the expense of the decent but unspectacular Johnny Muller, who has dropped to 19-5-2 and returns to South Africa (where the cruiserweight division, rather surprisingly, is thriving) having survived just three rounds with one of the world’s best prospects and with his pride intact.
Muller did his best, but if Uysk’s last opponent, Andrey Knyazev, represented something of a stall, the South-African seemed to me more of a lag. However, Muller was better than I, at least, expected and probably won the first ninety seconds of the first round, probing with his pushy jab while Muller moved around with that limber footwork and looked for an opening.
Uysk has the look of the Tartar the barbarian horde called upon when it was time to remove ears from fallen victims; Muller looks more like a reasonable nightclub bouncer and it felt like the natural restoration of order when Uysk started to take over, probably at the midway point of the first, his own southpaw jab and digging trailing uppercut the highlight.
To his credit, Muller seemed untroubled by these punches and remained organised. Uysk meanwhile showed better economy than at any time I have seen him, moving, but not too far; not unnecessarily.
In the second, Uysk jabbed almost exclusively. He legitimately throws punches in experimental segments, that is how far he stands ahead of his current opposition. Using the ropes to pen Muller in he opened him up with a flicking, accurate southpaw jab that seemed to paralyse Muller completely; he had almost no success, although in gunning for the torso he half-landed some blows.
There is a fluidity to Uysk’s best work that comes only when he has found rhythm, but I cannot at this stage of his career decide if that is self-inflicted by his experimental approach of if he is genuinely a slow starter. In a sense it would be good if he were – his team, I’m sure, would be grateful to have something to improve.
The third and final round of a scheduled ten opened with a crackling version of the second round jab defined by a wonderful variance between head and body. He can lead either way and both punches are sound. Unhittable because of movement and a judgement unerring (at this level) he had Muller heading for the distant shore of tactical befuddlement when his power intervened: a beautiful one-two including a nice short-jab sat Muller down. It looked devastating at first, perhaps because of the speed, but Muller gathered himself admirably and Usyk went back to work. With thirty seconds to survive though, he needed to hold as covering up just isn’t going to work against a surgeon like Usyk. Standing square, the Ukrainian fired a wicked looking left hook against a fisticly mute Muller who went down once more. The referee allowed the South African to continue but was forced to intervene a few seconds later as wide shots to the body married to straight blows to the face left Muller helpless. He was, by the end, little more than a punching bag.
I am ready for Usyk to be moved on and if he’s serious about picking up a cruiserweight strap before Evander Holyfield did so in just his sixteenth fight, he should be too. These matches are telling us very little. I tend to preach caution in the mobilisation of world class prospects, but Usyk is ready for the top ten.
I’m not convinced the top ten is ready for him.