While all eyes will most definitely be on the super-featherweight showdown between p4p superstar Vasyl Lomachenko and Jason Sosa this weekend in Oxon Hill, Maryland, another equally intriguing clash will take place on the undercard.
Fellow Ukrainian star Oleksandr Usyk will step out for only the 12th time in his professional career against fellow unbeaten prospect Michael Hunter.
Michael Hunter, a resident of Las Vegas, is going into just his 13th pro fight, so this is a true crossroads fight between two fighters looking to take that next step forward on the title trail.
Odds for this fight price Usyk as the clear favorite at -1400, with the comeback on Hunter priced at +700.
Oleksandr Usyk has been a force ever since his pro debut back in November, 2013. Picking up a title in only his 5th fight and a world title in only his 10th, he is a fighter who has looked almost as impressive as his more widely celebrated Ukrainian counterpart Vasyl Lomachenko in his rise through the pro ranks.
Two fights ago in only his 10th pro clash, Usyk travelled to face a hostile Gdansk crowd in Poland to fight local hero and then undefeated WBO champ, Krzysztof Glowacki. Glowacki, 26-0 at the time, had beaten long-reigning champion Marco Huck in the U.S. to win the WBO cruiserweight title and topped this off with a solid 1st defence against another former world champion in U.S.S. Steve Cunningham. Despite these credentials and fighting a boxer with just a 9-0 record in his home country, Glowacki entered the fight as a sizeable +175 underdog. Big things were obviously expected from Usyk and he delivered accordingly.
While both fighters split the early rounds with good two-way action, Usyk took command of the fight from round six onwards and despite a flash knockdown in the 12th, won a thoroughly deserved unanimous decision.
Michael Hunter on the other hand, despite sharing a strikingly similar record to Usyk, has walked a very different path so far in his career than that of his opponent.
A career-best win against Isiah Thomas was precluded by fighting a series of opponents with a combined record of just 101-65-8. In challenging a fighter in Oleksandr Usyk, Hunter is taking a serious step up in competition.
Hunter does not lack for talent however. He has a solid jab which he uses to set-up his powerful overhand right and is capable of ripping off fast combos to the head and body. When targets remain stationary Hunter’s combos look especially potent as he has good footwork and movement with which to outflank opponents. What Hunter does lack however is a good defence. He is often guilty of leaving his guard down way too low which opponents up to this point have been unable to take advantage of. Journeyman Jason Douglas rocked him with a series of hooks in a recent fight and this is an aspect of Hunter’s game that could trouble him significantly down the professional road.
In terms of Usyk, probably the most impressive aspect of his game is his ability to fight off both his back and front foot. Most fighters usually favor either one or the other, but Usyk looks equally comfortable fighting out of each. In addition to this he carries substantial power in both hands, stopping 10 of his 11 opponents inside the distance.
I can envision this fight likely ending sometime in the mid to late rounds. While Hunter does move well for a big man, he moves in generally straight lines only, both forward and laterally, and is happy just to tee off with his jab. This is something which Usyk, who uses multiple angles in both his offence and defence, should feast on. I believe Usyk will find an easy home for his hard hooks to the head and body by the mid-point of the fight and will easily be able to pivot away from Hunter to rip off some hard combinations. This in all likelihood will take their toll on the American later in the fight leading to a stoppage.
Take Oleksandr Usyk in this one.
Pick: Oleksandr Usyk by KO/TKO