Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Usyk vs Witherspoon: Oleksandr Usyk labelled ‘the baddest man on the planet’
"Can he deal with the big guys? Can he compete in the heavyweight division?"
Last Updated: 11/10/19 8:54am
Oleksandr Usyk “is the man to bring heavyweight boxing to a completely new level”, it was claimed at the pre-fight press conference to his divisional debut.
The unbeaten former undisputed cruiserweight champion will face Chazz Witherspoon on Sunday morning at 2am, live on Sky Sports Action, in his first heavyweight fight before targeting the world titles.
"Outside of Anthony Joshua he is the biggest star" in boxing, promoter Eddie Hearn said, before adding: "There is no barrier of language to genius.
"The pressure is there on him to win and maintain that mandatory status. Can he deal with the big guys? Can he compete in the heavyweight division?"
Usyk's manager Egis Klimas said: "On Saturday when the bells ring, make a note of the best heavyweight in the division, Oleksandr Usyk. The baddest man on the planet!"
His co-promoter Alex Krassyuk added: "We think Usyk is the man to bring heavyweight boxing to a completely new level."
He is the mandatory challenger to the WBO heavyweight title which Andy Ruiz Jr will defend against Anthony Joshua on December 7, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Usyk expects to challenge the winner.
But veteran contender Witherspoon, who stepped in this week to replace scheduled opponent Tyrone Spong, said: "I was willing to step up and accept the challenge. I'm at a point in my career where it makes sense to step up.
"This is a great opportunity. Opportunity knocks every once in a while and you have to open the door and say: 'Who is it?'
"He's a skilful fighter, a great champion with all the accolades in the world. I'm looking to put on a good performance.
"I won't act the fool but I am the guy who will show up to rumble. I'm not scared. You can't be scared. I'm here, I'm ready to fight.
"I'm the bigger guy, I'm willing to mix it up and anything can happen.
"One time in my life, I made history. I was the only guy to have all stoppages in the national Golden Gloves [amateur] tournament. Lightning has struck one time, and I'm looking for it to strike twice."
On the undercard, unbeaten Dmitry Bivol will defend his WBA light-heavyweight title against Lenin Castillo.
Jessica McCaskill will defend the WBA and WBC super-lightweight titles in her home city in a rematch against Erica Farias, who she beat last year.