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Saturday, 12 October 2019

Boxing Picks 2019- Oleksandr Usyk vs Chazz Witherspoon (October 12th)

Between now and the middle of December there are some very good looking cards with some big time main events that have been put together for Boxing fans (and no I am not including the YouTube fight in that). It is an exciting time as we should have a number of strong weekends to look forward to, although that is not the case this weekend.

Instead it is more of a time to have a quick look at some names that are going to be involved in big fights either at the end of this year, or more likely in early 2020. Two World Champions are in action who have been chasing Unifications without any success in drawing the other Champions into the ring and they will be getting ready to ensure they can put mandatories out of the way and also keep the ring rust from gathering around them.

The main fighter of interest though has to be Oleksandr Usyk who finally makes his debut at Heavyweight, although it has been a difficult road to get here with the Undisputed Cruiserweight king being out of the ring for almost a full twelve months.

Before I get into the Boxing Picks from this weekend and the three main fights I am concentrating on, I have to say a couple of words about Errol Spence Jr.

Most should know I am a huge fan of the Texan so it was a real shock to the system to hear of the car crash he had been involved in on Thursday.

It sounded bad and then the video made it clear it was very bad- but thankfully Spence Jr had some sort of guardian angel looking out for him that he was able to come out of the accident without a broken bone. Things will take time for a full recovery so I doubt he is out in January as was rumoured for his fight with Danny Garcia, but those things matter little when he could easily have lost his life on the night.

Hopefully we will get to see Errol Spence Jr sooner rather than later though and you have to wish him the best for his recovery.

I only had the one pick last Saturday and it turned out to be a losing one after backing Gennady Golovkin to find a late stoppage against Sergiy Derevyanchenko. It was a very close fight, but I think the early Knock Down in favour of GGG just about kept him in front, although it is clear the best days are now past him.

Unsurprisingly Canelo Alvarez is now talking up a third fight with GGG and I think that has to be next for the latter if it is ever going to happen. A rematch with Derevyanchenko could easily go the other way and I think the likes of Billy Joe Saunders and Demetrius Andrade would be confident in beating Golovkin now too.

Right now I am anticipating Canelo will announce that the trilogy with GGG will be completed on Cinco de Mayo weekend in 2020. First off the Mexican superstar has a huge fight with Sergey Kovalev coming up early next month in his move to Light Heavyweight, but regardless of the outcome I do think Alvarez will be targeting Golovkin and a chance to put an exclamation point on their rivalry.

Josh Warrington vs Sofiane Takoucht
After beating Lee Selby and Carl Frampton to win the World Title and underline his position, Josh Warrington just about got the better of Kid Galahad in an awful fight to clear his IBF mandatory.

As soon as that fight was over Warrington was desperate to get in with one of the other Champions, but for one reason or another the Leeds Featherweight has not been able to seal the deal. Oscar Valdez has seemingly moved up to Super Featherweight, Leo Santa Cruz is going to be on the Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz undercard and for the sixth year in a row Gary Russell looks set to only have one fight within a calendar year.

It has to be a frustration for Warrington who has been given a chance to return home for this bout with Sofiane Takoucht. Only one of the last ten fights Josh Warrington has had has been outside of Leeds, but he was desperately looking to head State-side this time around.

His opponent is Ranked in the top ten of the IBF World Rankings, but Warrington's mood in missing the big fights won't have been improved when noting that the IBF have put Kid Galahad in an Eliminator position to earn a rematch with the Leeds man. The first fight was very close, but it was not a very appealing watch which was partly down to the tactics employed by Galahad and I am not sure Warrington will be holding the IBF World Title if forced to go in that direction.

This all means he has to win this fight and do it in the style to entice one of the other Champions into the ring with him. Josh Warrington himself realises time is of the essence and that he can't allow his career to drift at this point, while the chance of having a rematch with Carl Frampton is not that appealing to him now without more belts being on the line.

It can't be a distraction to him when taking on veteran Sofiane Takoucht who will head to Leeds with nothing to lose. To be perfectly honest he is not someone who should pose a lot of problems for Warrington having struggled to move above European level and there is nothing in his eight fight winning run to suggest he can step up and beat Warrington at this stage of his career.

Takoucht is a southpaw which could make things awkward for a while, but I fully expect Josh Warrington to keep the pressure on and break down this opponent. The record suggests Warrington will do well to stop an opponent who has never been stopped before, especially as Warrington has only stopped six of twenty-nine previous opponents, but five of those have come in the last thirteen times he has stepped into the ring.

The punch output should remain strong for Twelve Rounds and I would not be surprised if Warrington can put enough together as the Frenchman tires to force a stoppage here. He wants to make a statement so I do think Warrington will be looking to put the exclamation point on this one against an opponent who has stopped less than 40% of his opponents who have largely come at a much lower level than this.

Backing Josh Warrington to stop opponents would have been a short route to the poor house in his career, but Takoucht is a step down from his recent opponents and I think that helps here. Tiredness and a potentially kind corner/referee should be in play here and I will have a small interest in Warrington winning this fight between the Seventh and Twelfth without the need to go to the cards.

Dmitry Bivol vs Lenin Castillo
The main talking point on the Chicago card on Saturday is the debut of Oleksandr Usyk at Heavyweight, but Dmitry Bivol is also in action as he defends his WBA World Title.

At the moment there are rumours that Bivol is soon going to be elevated into the Super Champion status for the WBA, but there are similarities with his situation and Josh Warrington's at Featherweight. What I mean is that this is not the fight Bivol wanted as he chased the other Champions in the Light Heavyweight Division only to be left out in the cold as one Unification takes place next weekend, while the other Champion takes on a big challenger for a big payday.

Dmitry Bivol became the full WBA Champion in 2017 having not really faced too many top named opposition at that point, but he has stepped up his level while defending this belt. Wins over Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba, Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jr are all exceptional ones, but all are the types of fights you might give someone building up to a World Title shot rather than when they are defending Champion.

This is all vital experience though and I am not going to criticise Bivol for failing to stop any of the last three of those opponents. They are durable fighters and Pascal's win over Marcus Browne showed that he still has something left, but on Saturday it should be a different story as Dmitry Bivol looks to remind people of his name before the other Champions return to the ring over the next month.

Lenin Castillo does not have a deep resume and his two previous losses have both come against unbeaten fighters including a points defeat to Marcus Browne in August 2018. He did Knock Down Browne, but I am less sure how impressive that is when we saw the American's whiskers fail him in his surprising defeat to Pascal two months ago.

There is clearly some pop that has to be respected and Castillo might be durable enough to become the fourth fighter in a row to go the distance with Bivol. Much will depend on his attitude really as he didn't really show a lot of aggression in the fight with Browne and didn't look to be really convinced he should be fighting at a higher level.

With that in mind I do think there is a possibility that this fight could just see Bivol pressing with Castillo looking to cover up and make sure he gets to the scorecards. That is a big price here, but I think Bivol has a little more power than Marcus Browne and he is the better Boxer who will pick his shots a little smarter than Browne did in that fight with Castillo. It could open the Dominican fighter up for something big that puts him in a difficult place and I think my lean is that Bivol will find the combination to get rid of this opponent somewhere in the second half of the fight.

Dmitry Bivol has shown he can carry his power late into the fight with the Twelfth Round stoppage of Sullivan Barrera, although the majority of his stoppages have been early on. In this one he is going to need time to break down Lenin Castillo while being aware of his power early and I think that is what we are going to see.

Oleksandr Usyk vs Chazz Witherspoon
The long anticipated Heavyweight debut of Undisputed Cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk takes place in Chicago this week.

In an alternative timeline, Usyk would have beaten Carlos Takam back in May just a few weeks before Anthony Joshua retained his World Titles in a win over Andy Ruiz Jr. We would then be heading into the fall with the most likely scenario being a Joshua vs Usyk World Title bout, but the chips have not landed that way for either fighter.

While Joshua continues preparation for a rematch with Ruiz Jr to avenge his defeat in June, injury has kept Usyk out of the ring for almost twelve months but the Ukrainian is finally ready to return.

Instead of the fight with an unbeaten Tyrone Spong, Chazz Witherspoon has stepped in at short notice and we only need to look back at Madison Square Garden on June 1st to note how things can go wrong if a fighter is overlooked. In saying that, Witherspoon is 38 years old, has had two Rounds in eighteen months and was disqualified against Chris Arreola and stopped by Tony Thompson and Seth Mitchell when hoping to be a contender.

The last of those was in 2012 so it is not wrong to suggest that Witherspoon is someway past his best and unlikely to really give Usyk too many problems. The bigger question is how many Rounds can Witherspoon get through having failed to hear the bell for the Fourth Round against Arreola and Mitchell.

Chazz Witherspoon is on an eight fight winning run against lower level opponents, but only three of those fights have needed the bell for a Fifth Round. He is going to go into the bout bigger than Usyk, but Witherspoon is not one of the giants of the Division and I think the superior quickness of the Ukrainian is going to see the American realise he is out of his depth pretty quickly.

Oleksandr Usyk probably needs some Rounds, but I think this debut is to make a statement and I can see him looking to pop Witherspoon from angles which takes away any semblance of belief the latter may be coming into the fight with. However this is not a one punch KO artist and even in his early Cruiserweight fights it took a couple of Rounds to warm into the task at hand and only 25% of Usyk's wins have come inside the first four Rounds.

You can't forget some of the high level opponents Usyk has fought though and Witherspoon can't really sit alongside those. The American is saying all the right things, but at 38 years old this is not really the time for Witherspoon to take on someone who is going to be quicker than him and clearly the superior boxer who will be just levels above him.

While the Ukrainian is not someone who is expected to stop opponents very early as he warms up to his task, I am not sure he is going to find a lot of resilience here. Chazz Witherspoon might have an early go, but I think the first time Usyk gets a few shots off we might be close to the end and I am going to look for the Ukrainian to secure his first early stoppage since beating Johnny Muller in 2015.

MY PICKS: Josh Warrington to Win Between 7-12 @ 3.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Dmitry Bivol to Win Between 7-12 @ 2.75 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Oleksandr Usyk to Win Between 1-4 @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)

Boxing Picks 2019: 21-40, + 5.87 Units (93 Units Staked, + 6.31% Yield)

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