Oleksandr Usyk Oozes Class – Beltholder and the world’s #2 cruiserweight Krzystof Glowacki, out of Walcz, Poland, was beaten soundly by a classy Oleksandr Uysk, Kiev, Ukraine, in Gdansk, Poland on Saturday night, Sept. 17. Previewing the fight I supposed that Glowacki was not just a serious step up for the Ukrainian but also a stylistic question mark given the Pole’s status as perhaps boxing’s ultimate ring thug, but there was very little sense that Usyk was in danger.
A puncher with a superb chin and a pressure style that suits his slot-machine physique, Glowacki is also capable of taking the back foot and awaiting aggression before ripping in his own shots, a horrible combination for any prospect, and despite the utter devastation he has wrought at a certain level within the 200lbs division, Usyk remained, until tonight, a prospect, with his slate just 9-0 (plus a storied amateur career) coming in. Glowacki, who destroyed Marco Huck and outpointed Steve Cunningham in his last two fights, was also unbeaten at bell, his standing a more rounded 26-0.
Pre-fight, Usyk looked his relaxed self, a smile and a wink painted upon his face as Glowacki glowered and smarted in his corner. The fight opened exactly as expected, Usyk floating and looking as Glowacki tried and failed to land trailing body-shots, but he did manage a dig inside for all that he was out-jabbed. In the second the Pole had his bulk bent over his front knee, looking, perhaps, to spring a trap or execute a rush; Usyk continued to push the jab but Glowacki perhaps did enough to take the round, and I had a sense that neither man had shown able to inflict his style or plan completely upon the other as late as the fourth.
In this, I was likely mistaken. Usyk had established his jab, the range, and more importantly identified Glowacki’s range. By virtue only of his boxing naturally, Usyk had actually inhabited the box seat and on my card he did not drop a round after that fourth. He is, shall we say in homage to another wonderful cruiserweight boxer, The Real Deal.
The key is footwork. The key is stamina.
Uysk tossed in a couple of Ali shuffles as the fight reached end. This is fitting. Glowacki, though never less than willing, though never less than desperate in fact to make an impact, looked, at times, leaden. Usyk moves with such carefree nonchalance that I had felt sure he would have to develop a more economical style in order to survive tougher, longer fights as his career began to drill the bedrock of the top ten. Not a bit of it. He was, as the cliché runs, as fresh for the twelfth as he was for the first and that carefree movement defined the fight. More importantly, his engine is absolutely confirmed. If he is to wilt, it will be due to punches, not pressure.
So the butterfly is accounted for. What about the bee?
I have compared Usyk to Joe Calzaghe, not in terms of style, but in terms of the punches he throws and lands. Calzaghe sacrificed traditional balance on the altar of offense, allowing him to punch, albeit while coming square, from positions that normally don’t lend themselves to sustained offense, and which allowed him to avoid the reset. Muhammad Ali, on the other hand, threw lightning strikes as his feet graced the canvas before moving off again, leaving his stirred opponent to ponder what it was, exactly, that just hit him. Usyk has elements of both these styles for all that comparisons to either are, for the moment, premature and stylistically inaccurate. He shoe-shines, but when he shoe-shines, he is careful to tuck in a harder punch in with each of his combinations, and when he lands a hard punch he is quick-thinking enough to tag another one on behind it, knowing that his hurt opponent is not likely to be firing back with big shots. One of the key questions I identified in previewing the fight was whether or not Glowacki had the kind of chin that would be equal to this question. Not in the sense of whether or not he could hold the punch – a knockout always seemed unlikely – but as to whether or not he could mount a meaningful attack while being subjected to this type of abuse.
The answer was “no” but the question was a little unfair; the answer will always be “no.” Usyk is so fast-handed that six, seven punch combinations, though naturally uncommon in this rarefied air (Glowacki is a very good fighter – nobody should lose sight of that) were occasionally on display in Poland tonight. Nobody can fight back amid that storm of leather, for all that there might only be true steam on two or three of them.
So to beat Usyk, someone is going to have to prevent him from mounting this type of offense and catch him. Catching him will be hard but not impossible. He moves gracefully enough but he likes to be barely out of range, not for him the far reaches of the ring, he is ready to arrive at range even when he is out of range.
If you catch him, and if you can prevent him landing those shoe-shine combinations, each one with a hand grenade attached within, you then need to deal with what is already one of the most persistent, accurate jabs in the sport.
A clash of heads in the third caused a cut above Glowacki’s right eye. Usyk happily pecked at it all night. He used punches to shift Glowacki’s guard before landing a blow in the gap he had just made. Such is his grasp of the geometry of his opponent’s defenses that he turns his glove to whichever angle best lends itself to that punch. Because these small shots are accurate and quick they carry pop despite the fact that Usyk isn’t swinging or smashing; miss a jab, he pops you with a little right. Walk in with your guard high? Make sure it’s tight because he can split it. He caught Glowacki over and over again up above the ear as he marched in with his gloves high, but always found the scoring areas. As anyone who has boxed knows, this is a really difficult thing to do, especially without being hit with a counter due to the width of the punch. Usyk minimizes that width with footwork but keeps some sting on the blow.
This is a high class of skill. This is a high class of fighter.
Glowacki didn’t like what he was getting as demonstrated by his low output and by his preference for single shots. Still, single shots were his best bet because Usyk tended not to be around long enough for any more and was often ready with a counter. Glowacki landed some hard body punches, but in general it would cost him. On the other hand, when he avoided throwing and tried to wait – as he did in the eighth – it just allowed Usyk to spar, moving around him, peppering him with jabs. In this round Glowacki actually started to look physically diminished; the shorter but thicker man he suddenly seemed a weight-class smaller.
Despite his speed and accuracy, Usyk knows the value of bodywork, as emphasized in the opening to the ninth where he went to the beltline after landing his usual jab. Pushed to the ropes, he was able to deflect almost everything an eager Glowacki threw on his gloves and arms before reclaiming ring center and landing a right hook, right uppercut combination out of his southpaw stance. Usyk didn’t switch hit against his opponent tonight, perhaps because he isn’t experienced at doing so against a fellow lefty, but perhaps just because he didn’t need to.
Glowacki produced some good bodywork of his own in this round and Usyk punished him with two right hooks and a right uppercut and a fine right to the body as he stepped out.
In the tenth, miles ahead on the official scorecards, Usyk decided to go toe-to-toe but he’s far too layered just to stand there; instead he moved circularly at close range as Glowacki suddenly pepped up, alive to new possibilities. The home crowd began to chant the Pole’s name but after a minute or so of landed jabs and a long combination, they were silenced. By the end of the round Usyk was actually manhandling Glowacki a bit, pushing him back onto the ropes, unhurried and apparently untroubled by the prospect of his professional knockout streak ending.
In the twelfth, Usyk slipped as a punch went in and referee Robert Byrd waved off the prospect of a count, probably correctly. Glowacki was desperate and as Usyk lay prone on his back he threw several punches at the Ukranian’s head. Usyk calmly defended himself – while lying down – and got up to land uppercuts, hurtful left-right combinations, spin Glowacki out of position and crack a left hand home before landing a beautiful three punch combination as the fight wound down to punctuate a performance as graceful as can be seen north of 175lbs.
The judges had it 117-111 twice and 119-109 (I had 119-109). To reiterate: Glowacki was no less than the #2 cruiserweight in the world going into this contest. He did no better than most of the national level opponents Usyk has been stopping in terms of rounds won. It was not a close fight.
It was hardly a fight at all.
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