Unbeaten Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk will take the opportunity with both hands to prove he can inhabit the same stage as the leaders of boxing's heavyweight division when he faces Derek Chisora on Saturday night.
Usyk dominated and unified the entire cruiserweight division in 16 professional fights after winning Olympic gold in London, but the clever, southpaw fighter has the biggest fighting men in his sights. Chisora, arguably more ambitious now aged 36 and in much better shape - mentally and physically - than when he went twelve rounds with Vitali Klitschko for a world title eight years ago, is the perfect opponent at the perfect time. Victory would bring huge spoils for both men.
Victory would propel Chisora back into contention for world title challenges. A statement win, such as knockout, for Usyk, would make him the talk of the heavyweight town, and make him a gunslinger with fists in the same conversations with the likes of the current champions, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, plus Deontay Wilder. Indeed, the WBO - the belt Joshua holds - have already made Usyk, by dint of his success in the division below, their mandatory challenger to the belt.
Promoter Eddie Hearn insisted today that the contest had to go ahead in spite of the no crowd. "This was an event that was supposed to happen in May in front of 17,000 people at The O2 Arena, but we have built something very special here. It is one of the biggest pound for pound stars in the sport in Oleksander Usyk, already the mandatory challenger for Anthony Joshua's world title with the WBO, against Derek Chisora who has had a great second wind in the sport of boxing. He's on a great run with big wins over Takam and David Price."
— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) October 30, 2020
Chisora - with a record of 32 victories, nine defeats, 23 knockouts - has talked of "war" - his ring sobriquet - when the first bell rings. "He will try to box. I can't box. It will be a shoot-out," he said. "When I hit him, he'll be hit, there is nowhere to hide. I don't want to be dancing or wrestling. I want both of us to work fairly. I have to keep marching forwards. He will try to wrong-foot me but I'm ready. People will be surprised."
Usyk - record 17 victories, 13 knockouts - has a different take: "There will be no war. I bring peace - pure, clean boxing. He will definitely want to hurt me badly but I won't stand in front of him. I don't know why everyone is talking about a test at heavyweight because, all of my life, I have been tested by heavyweights. If the king of animals would be considered according to the size, then it would be elephant, not the lion. An elephant is a friend of the mouse."
Chisora will give his all in this contest, and will attempt to harry the visitor and force him into a toe to toe battle. But expect Usyk to be fast and mobile, and pepper the Londoner as the fight progresses, finishing with a dramatic late stoppage which will signal his arrival in the heavyweight division as a true contender to the throne.
Usyk vs Chisora is live on Sky Box Office on Saturday night.