The 33-year-old Spong must win his eight-round fight this Saturday against Jeyson Minda (14-1, 8 KOs) in Mexico. He’s got to get through it without suffering an injury.
With Usyk’s fight coming up in just 6 weeks, it’s a real gamble for him to be fighting Spong. But it also shows that Matchroom isn’t taking any chances with him. Usyk is the WBO mandatory for heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr., and the sanctioning body could order that fight in 2020. That means potentially an in house fight for Matchroom if Joshua beats Ruiz Jr. in the rematch on December 7. Usyk would then face Joshua for the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles. Both guys are with Matchroom.
Evander Holyfield took an easy fight in his debut at heavyweight in 1988 after winning the IBF/WBA/WBC cruiserweight titles. In Holyfield’s first fight at heavyweight, he defeated James ‘Quick’ Tillis. The difference is that Tillis had a good amateur background in boxing. Spong is a kickboxer that turned pro in boxing, and is learning on the job. He hasn’t beaten anyone to be deserve the high ranking the WBO has given him.
Although Usyk won more titles than Holyfield at cruiserweight, he wasn’t as dominating. Holyfield was knocking everyone out at cruiserweight, and looking spectacular. Usyk is more of a finesse fighter, who moves around the ring. He’s like a bigger version of Vasiliy Lomachenko, but without the hand speed and the incredible talent. Holyfield was a much better cruiserweight than Usyk. There’s no question about it. Usyk looked terrible in his fights against Michael Hunter, Tony Bellew and Mairis Briedis. He put a lot of boxing fans asleep in his matches against Thabiso Mchunu, Murat Gassiev and Krzysztof Glowacki.
It doesn’t matter that Usyk isn’t going to be adequately prepared to fight for a world title after just one fight at heavyweight. Usyk will get a good payday in fighting for a world title. It’s going to look bad though if his only fight at heavyweight before he challenges for a world title is against a kickboxer named Spong.
Obviously, Usyk’s promoters at Matchroom will justify him getting a title shot at heavyweight due to him having previously unified the cruiserweight division. There’s a huge difference between the two divisions in terms of talent weight. The cruiserweight class lacks talented fighters. From top to bottom, the division is weak.
To be adequately prepared, Usyk would need to fight at least four to five times against the bigger heavyweights before challenging for a title. The way things are now, it’s just a rush job for Usyk. He was given a #1 ranking by the WBO based on his achievements at cruiserweight, and he’ll be given a title shot right away. You can’t call Spong a heavyweight that will prepare Usyk for a title. Likewise, there’s no one in Usyk’s cruiserweight resume that can prepare him to fight Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua or Andy Ruiz Jr.