When Oleksandr Usyk fought Derek Chisora in 2020, he appeared to struggle, but he has now claimed that he somewhat did this on purpose.
After dominating the cruiserweight division and becoming undisputed world champion, the prospect of Usyk moving up to heavyweight could have been daunting for the heavyweight champions at the time.
For his first fight in boxing’s glamour division, Usyk took on Chazz Witherspoon and stopped him in the seventh round, but it was not an overly convincing performance.
And in his next outing, Usyk came up against heavyweight veteran Chisora and did not look entirely comfortable, as he battled to win by unanimous decision.
From these performances, there was some suggestion among those in the boxing world that heavyweight may be a step too far for the Ukrainian.
And when asked by Queensbury Promotions’ Dev Sahni about his apparent difficulties when fighting Chisora, Usyk replied with a wry smile: “Let people watch my fight with Derek Chisora and think what they used to think.”
This prompted Sahni to pose the question as to whether Usyk had looked bad against Chisora on purpose so as not to scare away the heavyweight champions from fighting him, and he admitted: “Yes, this is true.”
And Sahni is not the first person to have thought this of Usyk, as Tyson Fury said in 2021: “What I’ve seen from Usyk in the last two fights, which hasn’t been a lot. But, then I had a little think about it, a brainstorm, and maybe he’s not showing us everything he can do.
“Maybe he’s just been playing around with Chisora and the other guy he fought, Witherspoon, maybe he didn’t even try and win those fights properly.
“Maybe he was looking bad on purpose, so he could get that big payday and then do his good boxing on that night, which has been done before.
“A lot of fighters have looked terrible in fights to get other big fights and then rose to the occasion and won those big fights.”
And this tactic worked a treat for Usyk, as he was welcomed into a clash with Anthony Joshua, which he won by unanimous decision and then he followed that up with a split decision victory in the rematch to walk away with the unified WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight world titles.
Next up, he will put those titles on the line against Daniel Dubois on Saturday night in Poland and it will be available to listen to for free exclusively on talkSPORT.