In an era where boxing seems bogged down from top to bottom with promotional disputes, prima donna fighters, ‘marinating’ fights and an inexplicable aversion to risk, the Cruiserweight divison stands as a shining example of how good boxing can be. Not only is there a deep top 10 filled with talented and dedicated fighters, these fighters actually fight each other and, not only that, they deliver in the ring. Anyone following the Cruisers over the last few years will have seen a plethora of devastating KO’s and great fights. On Saturday, Krzysztof Glowacki and Oleksandr Usyk are hoping to carry on that trend, and who would bet against them achieving it. Lets look at how these two will match up come fight night.
These are two of the most talented fighters in their division, and both are southpaws, but there the similarities end. While Glowacki came up largely under the radar until his stunning 11th round KO over long reigning titlist Marco Huck, Usyk has spent his pro career right in the limelight after a glittering amateur career that saw him pick up World and Olympic golds before turning over to the paid ranks. Stylistically also, these two cruisers are polar opposites, with one a tall, blisteringly quick, combination puncher and the other a powerful tank of fighter who’s single punch power has seen him score five kd’s and a KO against world level opposition.
Glowacki’s hero, the man credited with getting him into boxing and the fighter who face is plastered over his shoulder, is Mike Tyson. However, there is another great HW puncher of the past who’s style is probably more comparable to the Polish slugger, and that man is Joe Louis. Glowacki’s stance, while reversed as a southpaw, relies on the same basic principals that Jack Blackburn drilled into Louis some 80 years ago. Seen here in comparison to Steve Cunningham, who’s head straight up in the centre of his base, Glowacki’s head is over his rear foot creating a false distance between him and his opponents.
He also has his body bent at the waist, which in turn pushes his head off centre and over to the side. Again, seen in comparison to Cunningham’s stance, Glowacki’s head is off line, whereas Cunningham’s is lined up with his lead hand.
There are many pros and cons to this stance, as Joe Louis found out all those years ago. It is great for counter punching, and it is great for power punching. The natural in built defense that this stance brings allows the user to keep his feet set while remaining a difficult target to hit. Having the weight on the back foot also creates a ready made spring position from which to transfer weight to the front foot and create power. The added distance and false line of attack, allows Glowacki to bait his opponents forward onto his power.
Here Cunningham is drawn into leading, but he falls short and over extends looking for the head of Glowacki. From this position, with his feet set and his body spring loaded, he is able to counter with a hard shot to Cunningham’s ribs, made even more powerful by Cunningham’s forward momentum. His ability to punch hard while under fire is a big asset for him. Versus Huck he showed another facet to his counter punching game, this time catching the punches on his high guard and nailing Huck as he retreated with a beautiful combination.
Another favourable aspect to this style is that he is able to conserve energy. He doesn’t need lots of footwork or wild head movement to avoid punches, so he is able to maintain a steady pace throughout the fight. Due to this, he has a proven ability to carry his power late, scoring knockdowns vs Cunningham, and a dramatic KO over Huck, well inside the championship rounds.
However there are cons to this stance and this way of fighting. The extra weight over the back foot means that your bodies natural balance is gone. Moving the feet becomes more difficult and your overall mobility is compromised. Fighting an opponent who is patient enough to keep his distance, and quick enough on their feet that they can keep you from setting your feet, you can look cumbersome and slow, while also leaving plenty of opportunities for your opponent to land as you try to keep in line with their steps. Joe Louis found this against brilliant light heavyweight Billy Conn, and Glowacki could well find it against Oleksandr Usyk.
Usyk is a fighter very much in the Lomachenko mold. He is a buzzsaw of a fighter, darting in and out of range, firing off quick 4-5 punch combinations and escaping around the corner, leaving his opponent chasing shadows they try to keep up. Where Glowacki’s defense is primarily based on keeping good head position and blocking with his hands and arms, for Usyk his footwork is the key.
Here vs the slow footed Rodriguez he is able to switch the angle as he is punching, keeping his opponent turning, stopping him setting his feet, and opening up his guard before escaping to a safe distance. Versus a fighter like Glowacki, who relies on being able to set and knowing where his opponents head is going to be, these types of moves are going to be very successful. Another positive for Usyk is his ability to disrupt rhythm with feints and level changes, keeping his opponent guessing about when and where the attack is going to come.
Here he keeps good distance with his feet while he feints and probes with his jab, sometimes feinting, sometimes jabbing, sometimes dipping as if to go low, and other times actually shooting to the body. The broken nature of his attack plays havoc with Rodriguez’ timing. Against a counter puncher like Glowacki, being able to disrupt his timing and making him question when and were to punch will be a big asset. Not only making it difficult for the Pole to land, but also forcing him to take steam off his punches, thus reducing his power, in trying to do so.
Things might not all be rosy for Usyk though. Glowacki can have success catching the perpetually moving Usyk if his timing is on point. He is liable to dropping his hands as he moves round the corner, and this can leave him open to hooks as he escapes.
In this clip Rodriguez picks Usyk’s movement early and is able to wing a wide hook into his path, clipping Usyk as he leaves the pocket. Glowacki is going to have to be patient and not get disheartened while waiting for these opportunities. If he can study Usyk’s feet and start to time his movement, his natural power could have the Ukrainian in a lot more trouble than he was in the moment above. He would do well to try to catch Usyk to the body also as he moves, not only cutting off potential escape routes but also slowing him down for the later rounds.
In stark contrast to Glowacki, Usyk’s style is extremely demanding on the body. The constant dipping and dodging, movement, and high punch output is lot of work for any fighter, but especially one who weighs 200lbs+ on fight night. Although he hasn’t shown any signs of gassing so far, he also has only gone 9 rounds before. The level of opponents he has faced is also very low, meaning he has not been forced into fighting a higher pace than he wants to. As the fight moves to the later rounds, Glowacki could find that his target becomes less mobile and more easy to hit. We know what Glowacki can do in the Championship rounds, we are not so sure about Usyk.
This is an extremely interesting fight. It’s a boxer vs puncher matchup where the boxer can punch and the puncher can box, and they are always fun. Neither of these two know how to lose. Someone is going to have to learn.
To me that man is more likely to be Glowacki. Usyk stylistically should have the beating of Glowacki. He has the foot movement and the broken rhythm to make a counter punchers life extremely difficult, that’s without even taking into account the height and reach advantages Usyk has. As he struggles to land, I predict Glowacki to compensate by taking some power off his punches, thus taking away a big part of his game.
This pick doesn’t come without danger though. Usyk burns a hell of a lot of fuel fighting the way he does, whereas Glowacki doesn’t. If he isn’t conditioned to go 12, or he doesn’t pace himself, then the last 3-4 rounds could be very nervous watching. Glowacki carries power when his opponent is there to be hit, and at 200lbs, any punch could be lights out. It’s a long shot. A punchers chance. It’s probably not enough.
In conclusion: Usyk by wide decision.