It definitely wasn’t all smooth sailing for former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk as he took his first real heavyweight test today, but he won a decision without any controversy over a very determined Derek Chisora in London.
Usyk (18-0, 13 KO) took scores of 115-113, 115-113, and 117-112 over the rugged veteran Chisora (32-10, 23 KO), who looked to do damage early and was doing well, but couldn’t keep up the hot pace, and the Ukrainian chipped away and did some damage of his own as the fight progressed. Bad Left Hook had the fight 116-112 for Usyk.
The 33-year-old Usyk, who debuted at heavyweight about a year ago with a win over Chazz Witherspoon, had to dig in a bit deeper this time than last, which was expected and even desired. If Usyk is going to compete with the likes of Anthony Joshua — and as WBO mandatory challenger, that’s his target right now — he has to be able to get past the likes of Chisora. He did, but there remain questions how he’ll handle guys even bigger and definitely better than this.
It wasn’t all just speed and boxing IQ and movement that Usyk did today, though. He didn’t want to get in the trenches with Chisora, of course, but he did hurt “Del Boy” a few times, including late in a couple of rounds:
Chisora, 36, has to be commended for a terrific effort in defeat, which is kind of the story of his career in bigger fights, really, but he’s generally come to fight and did it again today. He had a plan of attack for Usyk, looked to catch him cold early, and did to a degree, but not enough to do big time damage or score an upset knockout. But he seemed to clearly believe the general thought that if he was going to win this fight, it had to be by knockout, that he couldn’t get enough on points to beat Usyk over 12. He hung in there and never went away, but Usyk was the better man on the whole, and the very clearest rounds were for Usyk.
Usyk now figures to wait on the winner of the Dec. 12 fight between the aforementioned Anthony Joshua and IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev, and then go from there. If Joshua wins as expected, it’s quite likely Joshua-Usyk will come next. Usyk and his team have stated repeatedly that they didn’t move up to heavyweight to “get acclimated” with a bunch of fights, and they’ve also stated repeatedly that they have no intention of “stepping aside” to allow an undisputed title fight between Joshua and Tyson Fury. They have a mandatory and intend to enforce it.
George Kambosos Jr SD-12 Lee Selby
The DAZN commentary were quite certain Selby had this in the bag. The Sky Sports commentary had it for Kambosos. Opinions were split all over the place. It wasn’t the most exciting or compelling fight, but it was interesting to score, so there’s that.
We wound up scoring it 115-113 for Kambosos, who edged it late on my card. Official scores were 115-114 Selby, and 116-112 and 118-110 Kambosos, who wins this IBF eliminator to earn the No. 1 ranking with that sanctioning body, but I don’t think it was actually for a mandatory title shot, though Kambosos and Matchroom seem convinced that’s the case. You may wonder how a fighter and promoter could be wrong about that, but the Matchroom and Dillian Whyte were somehow confused by the WBC for like 17 years, so.
Anyway, the No. 2 ranking will be filled later this evening between Isaac Cruz and Diego Magdaleno, and Kambosos will probably have to face the winner of that fight in a final eliminator to get to Teofimo Lopez, or maybe face the winner of that fight for the vacant title if Lopez moves up by then, which is quite possible.
Kambosos (19-0, 10 KO) says he wants Lopez right now. He’d be an enormous underdog in that matchup, but he does want to take the swing. At any rate, the Australian-Greek went on the road here, got the W in a difficult fight with Selby (28-3, 9 KO), and has established himself as a contender at 135.
For the 33-year-old Selby, he’s now 2-1 at 135 after jumping up from 126, and he’s just not looked great in any of those fights. He also never looks bad, mind you, just like a capable but sort of middle of the road guy at this weight. And there seems no chance of him maybe moving down to 130, as he’s said it’s tough to make 135, and he has no idea how he ever made 126.
But a good win for Kambosos, who moves a step closer to a title shot however the dominoes fall with the belt he’s targeting.
Savannah Marshall TKO-7 Hannah Rankin
This win gives Marshall (9-0, 7 KO) her first world title, as she claims the vacant WBO middleweight title with a seventh round stoppage over Rankin (9-5, 2 KO).
This was a one-sided drubbing, really. The first four or five rounds were dominant from the 29-year-old Marshall, a former amateur standout whose claim to fame was and still is her 2012 World Championships tournament win over Claressa Shields, which is Shields’ only recorded loss. But the sixth and seventh rounds got ugly. The 30-year-old Rankin was beaten into taking a knee late in the seventh, and referee Phil Edwards made the call to stop it there. They defended it as a “tough call,” but it shouldn’t have been. She was getting battered, hadn’t won a round, and didn’t have the tools to come back.
It’s worth noting, since Marshall is going to stay so promotionally focused on possibly fighting Shields — and rightly so, it’s by far her biggest possible fight — that Marshall stopped Rankin, which Shields did not do when she fought Rankin in 2018. Shields won every round, but Marshall did stop her, and it’s also the first time Rankin has been stopped, and she’s fought good opponents.
“The only reason Claressa’s got the belts is she got there before me, not because she’s better than me, because she certainly isn’t,” Marshall said. “She doesn’t want none of me.”
Shields-Marshall would definitely be an interesting matchup, at least much more than anything else either can make. Whether it can or will get done remains to be seen, but Marshall is adamant that she wants it, and you’d think Shields would like a chance to shut her up, so to speak, after years of bragging that Marshall did beat Shields, and Marshall did beat Shields, to be fair.
Tommy McCarthy MD-12 Bilal Laggoune
McCarthy (17-2, 8 KO) continues his career turnaround with a solid win here, picking up the previously vacant European cruiserweight title with this decision win over Belgium’s Laggoune (25-2-2, 14 KO).
Scores were 114-114, 116-113, and 116-112 for McCarthy, who at 29 is sort of hitting the levels he’d hoped to a few years ago. It won’t surprise you, probably, to learn that the even card came from judge Daniel Van de Wielde, a veteran from — you guessed it! —
Frank Stallone Belgium. BLH had the fight 117-111 for McCarthy, and it’s pretty hard to figure six rounds for the 28-year-old Laggoune.
Action-wise, this was an OK fight, not boring but no big high points. Maybe the most memorable thing here was a bit in the sixth round where Laggoune started pawing at his right eye and just wandered over to his corner so he could have them look at it, not at the referee’s instruction but just, you know, vibing and doing what he wanted. When referee Victor Loughlin wondered what Laggoune was doing and stopped a cornerman from putting some water in Laggoune’s eye, the ring doctor got involved but Laggoune just sort of flippantly went, “I don’t want to quit, no,” or something to that effect, and the great thing was all of this just worked. Loughlin would have been completely right to just stop the fight on a TKO there, but Laggoune’s sheer confidence in the act worked out for him.
Ramla Ali PTS-6 Eva Hubmeyer
Ali, a 31-year-old from Somalia and now based in London, is a model-boxer, or boxer-model, whichever order, who made her pro debut here.
She looked sharp, but she was also facing an opponent in Hubmeyer (1-1, 1 KO) who wasn’t very good at all, and that’s not trying to be mean. She gave her best effort but had no defense whatsoever. She was tough, though, as Ali peppered her for six straight rounds, winning every second of the fight. Ali is someone Matchroom will want to push and see if they can’t make a star of her, but like anyone she’ll have to be able to hold up her own end against credible opposition eventually. She’s definitely not talentless, she’s not a farce or a joke in the ring, but there are a lot of levels to go from here.
Amy Timlin D-10 Carly Skelly
This was a really good fight, got bumped onto the “main card” when Dave Allen’s fight was canceled yesterday, and thank God, because this was dramatically better than Allen against Tijuana bar stomper Christopher Lovejoy was going to be.
Timlin (4-0-1, 0 KO) and Skelly (3-0-1, 0 KO) both fought their hearts out for a full 10 rounds here, and at the end the Commonwealth 122-pound title stayed vacant, as judges split them on scores of 95-95, 97-96 Skelly, and 96-95 Timlin. Bad Left Hook had it 96-94 for Skelly, but this could really have gone either way, and a rematch would be totally welcome on a future Matchroom card. One expects color commentator Andy Lee is right, that the 20-year-old Timlin is more likely to be better the next time than the 33-year-old Skelly, but Skelly’s form surprised a lot of people here, I think; she was a big underdog, but easily could have gotten her hand raised.
“You can’t really fault the result, it was a close fight. I won some rounds, she won some rounds, so I think it was a fair decision,” Timlin said. “I think styles make fights and that was a really good fight. I’d love to do the rematch.”
“It’s frustrating. I thought it was close early on, and I come on strong at the end, but I’ll have to watch it back,” Skelly said. She also said she’s willing to do a rematch.