Eight years ago Usyk and Chisora were worlds apart but they meet at a fascinating crossroad, writes James Dielhenn
Monday 16 March 2020 05:56, UK
In 2012 as Oleksandr Usyk mixed with gymnasts, kayakers and synchronised swimmers at the Olympic Village in east London, preparing himself to eventually take a gold medal home to Ukraine, he might have heard the commotion from another boxing match down the road.
Just three miles away at Upton Park, Derek Chisora was trading foul words then punches with none other than David Haye. Chisora's greatest humbling came with Usyk sat anonymously down the road, probably watching on TV with a Jamaican sprinter or an Ethiopian marathon runner.
It is testament to Chisora's resurgence that, eight years after crashing to the floor at Haye's feet, he is led towards a career-best victory by his then-conqueror against the young Ukrainian prodigy who has since become a phenom.
Usyk, then 25 and at the beginning of his odyssey alongside fellow gold medallists Anthony Joshua, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Katie Taylor, was aware of Chisora. Chisora, months earlier, had tried and failed to beat Usyk's countryman Vitali Klitschko and had spat water in the face of little brother Wladimir in the process.
Usyk and Chisora will now return to the pocket of east London, to The O2, where they experienced a stunning high and a brutal crash respectively in 2012. They will contest a high-stakes fight on May 23, live on Sky Sports Box Office, that has major ramifications for both men.
For Chisora, enjoying an Indian summer to a long career that includes nine defeats, he has another chance at a career-best victory. The Londoner formerly known as Del Boy will negotiate himself into a position as an unlikely world title challenger if he can bump off the heavyweight division's newest threat.
For Usyk, this is just his second heavyweight fight and beating a respected veteran name would solidify his current position as the next in line to challenge Anthony Joshua. More so, it would send chills through the division due to what more he might be capable of.
What makes this fight intriguing is the point at which they meet.
On the face of it Usyk is miles more talented and has already achieved far, far more than Chisora could ever have dreamed of. He is an Olympic gold medallist, the inaugural winner of the World Boxing Super Series, the undisputed cruiserweight champion, undefeated in 17, he juggles, he dances, goodness knows what else he excels at because he's that type of bloke.
But there is legitimate wonder if he has bitten off more than he can chew by launching himself into the heavyweight division where his physical size does not match up to the big boys.
For example Usyk weighs 15st-16st, similar to Deontay Wilder. Chisora is 18st-plus, similar to Tyson Fury.
Promoter Eddie Hearn asked: "Does the footwork and skill of Usyk beat the heart, willpower, strength and power of Chisora?"
If the answer is no, Usyk's ambitious plan to eventually dethrone Joshua will be in tatters and he will have taken a beating like never before.
It is worth noting that in Usyk's heavyweight debut against Chazz Witherspoon (a short-notice opponent) last year he was very hittable and not hugely powerful himself. It wasn't the explosion onto the scene that he would have expected, and he has suffered with injuries since.
Usyk's ominous confidence is well-placed - he is never happier than far from home, pummelling rivals in their back yards.
He won his first world title against Krzysztof Glowacki in Poland, beat Michael Hunter in the US, knocked out Marco Huck in Germany, entered the Latvian lion's den to oust Mairis Briedis, completely dominated Murat Gassiev in Russia then ended Tony Bellew's career in the UK.
He will have no interest and no respect whatsoever for the 'Derek Chisora' chant that is synonymous with The O2 in London.
The key to the result of this fight will be Usyk's chin. For the first time it will be truly tested by a proper heavyweight. He will have torrid moments when Chisora mauls forward throwing his fists recklessly and must survive that. It will tell us what more to expect from Usyk in his heavyweight adventure.