Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk was in dire need of a new opponent for his highly anticipated debut at heavyweight on Saturday when it was revealed on Monday that original foe Tyrone Spong tested positive for a banned substance, and the Illinois State Athletic Commission would be revoking his license. A search started immediately to find someone to take on one of boxing's best on short notice.
The hunt lasted less than 24 hours, as Chazz Witherspoon will battle Usyk in the main event from the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, live on DAZN.
Witherspoon (38-3, 29 KOs), the second cousin of former WBA and WBC heavyweight titleholder Tim Witherspoon, is coming off a stoppage win over Santiago Silgado in March. The 38-year-old has won eight consecutive fights since a third-round TKO loss to Seth Mitchell in April 2012, but those have come over a seven-year span.
In his biggest fights, Witherspoon has come up on the short end of the stick. He lost to former world title challengers Chris Arreola in June 2008 by third-round disqualification and Tony Thompson in December 2009 by a ninth-round TKO. While the odds aren't in his favor, Witherspoon gets the opportunity to dethrone one of the sport's top pound-for-pound best.
“I can’t wait to face Usyk in Chicago,” Witherspoon said in a press release. “I have been in training ready for a big fight, and it doesn’t get bigger than this. Oleksandr is stepping up to heavyweight — and he’s going to find out that it’s a totally different game.
“I’ve won my last eight fights, and I really feel that I’ve been waiting in the wings for a huge opportunity like this, and I am going to put every ounce of myself into the fight on this massive stage.”
The 32-year-old Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) is a 2012 Olympic gold medalist at heavyweight. The native of Ukraine put himself on the map and in the conscience of boxing fans when he stormed through the World Boxing Super Series by defeating Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev to not only win the tournament but become the first person in the four-belt era to become the undisputed champion at cruiserweight. Usyk put all four belts on the line in his last fight in November and nearly knocked out Tony Bellew through the ring to retain all four championships.
Usyk had been set to make his inaugural outing among the big boys in May against Carlos Takam. It didn't come to pass because Usyk suffered a biceps injury, and the fight got pulled.