Although it is the opening round of the cruiserweight tournament, it is not a match to be taken lightly. It is, in fact, a battle between champions of past and present. The WBO cruiserweight belt had a comfortable home around Marco Huck’s waist for the better part of the last decade. Huck captured the belt in August 2009 and defended it 13 times before finally losing it to Krzysztof Głowacki, the very man Oleksandr Usyk took it from. Come Saturday, the two men will meet in the ring, one chasing redemption while the other seeks to solidify his spot at the top.
Marco Huck: The journey back
Huck reigned for almost six years as the WBO cruiserweight champion before he met Glowacki. He had a comfortable lead on the score cards, having knocked the challenger down in the sixth. All signs pointed to another successful defence. But as Huck swayed away from a wide left hook, a right straight barreled down the middle and put him on the mat for the first time in his career. He answered the bell but a fiery barrage from Glowacki sent him through the ropes, prompting the referee to end the fight.
Since that loss, Huck has been trying to work his way back up to the top of the world. He stopped Ola Afolabi to gain the IBO cruiserweight strap and defended it against Dmytro Kucher. His next bout proved to be another pitfall as he dropped a decision to the undefeated Mairis Briedis.
The WBSS has come at the opportune time for Huck. It gives him the pedestal he needs to get back into the title picture and in the very first match at that. He has been granted a chance to win back the WBO title but getting through Usyk is a mountain of a task.
Oleksandr Usyk: The new king
Usyk tore onto the professional scene in 2013 after capturing the gold medal at the London Olympics. He stopped his first nine opponents in spectacular fashion before earning a title shot against Głowacki. He easily out-boxed the Polish champion and won the belt, defending it twice since.
“The Cat” is looking unstoppable right now. His hand-speed is uncanny for a cruiserweight and he has the ability to string combos together like poetry. Although he has been dominant in the ring, his detractors claim that his mettle has not been tested against the strongest in the division. The WBSS, however, will provide an excellent proving ground for the Ukranian to demonstrate his true ability.
Huck is coming into this fight as the clear underdog. While both fighters have a similar pressuring style, there are two departments where Usyk is clearly superior, hand-speed and volume. We’ve seen Huck suffer at the hands of fighters who deliver punches in bunches. Briedis landed combo after combo in the pocket with Huck unable to score any definitive blows of his own.
Usyk carries a similar tool set and, perhaps, even greater speed. Usyk is an expert at picking his shots as well. He knows exactly how to work around his opponent’s guard, landing devastating uppercuts and hooks through the gaps. On paper, it looks like Usyk is going to breeze through this fight. But if anyone can overcome adversity, it’s Huck. He is as tough as they come and has shown resolve in the grittiest of wars.
When the opening bell rings on Saturday, Huck is going to have to dig deep if he chooses to stand toe-to-toe with Usyk. The road to redemption is fraught with obstacles and the WBO champ is definitely a huge one.
The fight has all the makings of an exciting dust up and could launch the WBSS off with an auspicious start. The tournament can be viewed on Super Channel in Canada and ITV in the United Kingdom.
Stay tuned to RealSport for the fight recap this Saturday!
Oleksandr Usyk's Highlights
Marco Huck's Highlights
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