Adonis Stevenson was lopsidedly beaten and Ukrainian cruiserweight Murat Gassiev was not even able to complete his third round TKO win.
So when Oleksandr Usyk fell in his first fight after moving up to cruiserweight, the question was how could a fighter who would regularly fight at 170 pounds make the leap to heavyweight?
From the outside looking in, it was not an easy climb. Usyk struggled mightily against top-class opposition — and then he got really good.
The most notable performer of his time in the paid ranks was Tony Bellew. It took him 18 fights — and three failure-prone defeats — before he even came close to dethroning Usyk. It took another 15 fights and two fighters and another defeat to come as close as Bellew ever did.
Bellew could not ever quite answer the question: Did Usyk have to wait until he got bad? Like a combination lock that is broken, only to be turned in again, it seems that Bellew got close enough to make Usyk realize that he was up against a certain type of boxer.
Bellew would be a lucrative exception to the rule.
Whatever he was capable of fighting at cruiserweight was bound to impress opponents, but it is dangerous to expect even the best fighters to perform the same at the heavier weight divisions. Stevenson and Tony Bellew are exceptional, if sometimes limited, boxers.
Usyk found that out before anyone else. He demonstrated that he has what it takes to become a major player in boxing. He is improving all the time. If this is not a profile of the “Next Era” of heavyweight fighting, I don’t know what is.