By Jake Donovan
Oleksandr Usyk is finally cleared for his heavyweight debut.
Now all he needs is a confirmed opponent.
The 2018 Fighter of the Year and former World cruiserweight champion will fight for the first time both in 2019 and as a heavyweight. The event will come Oct. 12 versus an opponent to be determined, taking place at Wintrust Arena on the campus of DePaul University in Chicago, Ill.
“Save the date,” noted promoter Eddie Hearn as his Matchroom Boxing USA outfit confirmed the date and venue through social media on Thursday. “Usyk is coming, DAZN! Full show details dropping next week.”
For Usyk (16-0, 12KOs), the moment comes nearly five months after originally planning for the occasion. The 2012 Olympic Gold medalist from Ukraine was due to face former title challenger Carlos Takam, only to suffer a torn biceps injury in postponing his anticipated heavyweight debut.
It was also just enough to potentially lose out on revisiting the matchup.
Efforts to resurrect such plans were complicated earlier this week when Takam signed a promotional deal with Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing. DeGuardia and Hearn have done past business together, but it has since come to surface that Takam has been downgraded from frontrunner to highly unlikely to land the plum assignment.
Nevertheless, it will mark Usyk’s first fight since an 8th round knockout of Tony Bellew last November. The road win put an exclamation point on a fantastic 2018 campaign that saw the southpaw win the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament and fully unify the 200-pound division. All three wins in 2018 came on the road, including hanging the first loss on reigning titlists Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev in Latvia and Russia, respectively.
His next bout will mark just his third in the United States, the prior two occasions coming in back-to-back appearances in Dec. 2016 and April 2017. The latter of the two took place in Oxon Hill, Md., a Washington D.C. suburb which was due to host his planned fight in May.
Once his opponent is locked in, Usyk will have something to strive for beyond his 17th pro win. Having served as World Boxing Organization (WBO) “Super” cruiserweight champ, his move up the scale ensured him a mandatory shot at the heavyweight title at his leisure.
That will come either versus the winner of the rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua, or in a vacant title fight should the sport’s politics get in the way.
Either way, Usyk is in a prime position—as soon as he finds someone to fight in October.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox