The heavyweight division has always been one of a particular flavor of mythology and wonder in the annals of the sweet science. Particularly with an American audience that has long since deified Jack Johson, Joe Louis, Marciano, the Ali-Frazier-Foreman Industrial Complex, and Iron Mike, the big guys don't just hit your face harder; their impact on the soul is fairly as stirring as it gets.
That's why it makes perfect sense for Ukraine's Oleksandr Uskyk to make his heavyweight debut this weekend-- even though the division is already as healthy and exciting of late as it's been in a decade.
Usyk, who became the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world and is widely regarded as one of the top-rated pound-for-pound fighters active today, completely cleaned out the 200-pound division. He ate several chumps alive and grinned while he did it. And though the heavyweight set had been plenty robust these last few years thanks to the dazzling three-man rhumba that was Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Deontay Wilder only to see Andy Ruiz Jr. steal all our hearts (and Joshua's title belts) and smash his way into the first tier, Usyk making this division a true fearsome fivesome is an absolute coup for fight fans.
It must be noted that the cruiserweight class, at least in our corner of the world, has never held even a fraction of the prestige of the heavyweight boys, nor the readily identifiable all-time legends that lurked just below at the 175-pound light heavyweight level (Roy Jones Jr., Bernard Hopkins, Joe Calzaghe, Andre Ward). The toast of 200 moving up like this is bold. It's a shot across the bow dripping with narrative.
And with each convincing win, it became more and more necessary.
A keen 6-foot-3 knockout artist, the particular glory of the heavyweight life was clearly calling to the 32-year-old Usyk. And why not, certainly now that Joshua was proven to be far from unbeatable, Fury was just pushed to the brink by an unsung Otto Wallin, Ruiz hasn't proven himself with a title defense yet, and Wilder almost seems bored out there?
It's time to shake up the game. And while Saturday's opponent, Chazz Witherspoon -- a last-minute replacement for Tyrone Spong, who failed a drug test -- isn't expected to shock the world, eyes around the fight game should still be firmly fixed on the big Ukrainian, whose devious smile and cheeky antics would almost seem to recall a gap-toothed Fury.
Because we may be in store for one small step on the road to a revamped heavyweight class that's got more bang-bang thrills than a "John Wick" flick.