The heavyweight debut of Cruiserweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk is set.
Usyk, the 2018 consensus fighter of the year, will move up in weight to face battle-tested former heavyweight world title challenger Carlos Takam on May 25 (DAZN) at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Friday.
"The time has come for the ultimate challenge for Oleksandr Usyk," said Hearn, who co-promotes Usyk with K2 Promotions. "This pound-for-pound star had dominated the cruiserweight division, becoming undisputed champion after just 15 fights. Now he takes the daring leap to the land of the giants as he attempts to repeat his achievements in the heavyweight division."
Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs), 32, a southpaw and 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medalist from Ukraine, has done all he could do as a cruiserweight. His stated goal when he turned pro was to unify the cruiserweight division and then try to do the same at heavyweight. He is on a collision course with unified heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua, whom Hearn also promotes, for a fight likely next year as long as they both keep winning.
"May 25 marks a major moment in my career when I move to the heavyweight division," Usyk said. "At cruiserweight I did it all and became the undisputed champion, and that is my goal now in the heavyweights."
But first comes a 12-round nontitle bout with Takam (36-5-1, 28 KOs), 38, a Cameroon native based in France. He has faced top heavyweights such as former titleholders Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker, as well as Dereck Chisora, and given them all tough fights in defeats. He also challenged Joshua for his belts in October 2017 and got knocked out in the 10th round.
"Takam is the perfect test for the heavyweight debut," Hearn said. "[He is] a big, strong, all-action fighter who will welcome Usyk into the fold with a heavy arsenal."
Usyk, who has vacated one of his cruiserweight belts in anticipation of his move up in weight but still officially holds the three others for now, said he welcomes a tough opponent in Takam.
"This is the ultimate challenge, and it begins on May 25 against Carlos Takam," he said. "It's a tough first fight, but I need to test myself against world-class opposition on my new road to undisputed."
Takam is coming off a seventh-round knockout of Senad Gashi on Dec. 22 and excited to get the chance to face one of boxing's pound-for-pound best.
"Usyk has achieved everything in the cruiserweight division. I am ready to welcome him to the new world of heavyweight boxing," Takam said. "I can promise that this will be a great fight, and I will provide Usyk with a huge test on his heavyweight debut. I have huge ambitions of my own in the division, and this fight will provide me with the chance to prove that."
Usyk won the eight-man World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament last July to unify all four major 200-pound belts in the final by taking two belts from Murat Gassiev in a one-sided decision victory on Gassiev's turf in Moscow. Not long after that fight, Usyk and K2 Promotions signed a co-promotional deal with Hearn, and Usyk defended the undisputed title with a crushing eighth-round knockout of former world titlist Tony Bellew in November in Manchester, England. But all along he had in mind going up to heavyweight, where he hopes to emulate Evander Holyfield, the only undisputed cruiserweight champion to also become the undisputed heavyweight champion -- although Holyfield accomplished that feat when a fighter needed only three belts to be an undisputed champion.
"Usyk brings to heavyweight his skills of the Olympic champion as well as his experience of the undisputed cruiserweight champion," said Alexander Krassyuk, the general director of K2 Promotions. "He has got all he needs to pick up the [Ukrainian] heritage of the great brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, to unify the belts and to reign [over] the division for many years. This journey starts on May 25 with Carlos Takam."
Hearn told ESPN that the card will also include heavyweight contender Michael Hunter (16-1, 11 KOs), 30, of Las Vegas, who lost a decision to Usyk at the MGM National Harbor challenging him for a cruiserweight belt in April 2017. Hunter moved up to heavyweight after the loss and has won four fights in a row. Also, Hearn said blue-chip heavyweight prospect Filip Hrgovic (7-0, 5 KOs), 26, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist from Croatia, will also fight on the card.
Source: Dan Rafael | ESPN Senior Writer