Oleksandr Usyk has recently beaten former heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua, making him the unified heavyweight champion and undisputed cruiserweight champion. This is quite an impressive feat considering throughout boxing history, the only other men with this achievement are Evander Holyfield and David Haye. Usyk’s victory over Joshua is even more impressive, considering the 20-pound weight difference between the two men. Oleksandr Usyk showcased his impressive skillset against one of the best heavyweight boxers in the world and did it as the smaller fighter. Today let’s look at how you can box like heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Usyk is a very mobile and active fighter in the ring. His boxing rhythm keeps him in perpetual motion making him a difficult target to hit. One of the techniques he uses heavily for his rhythm is the pendulum step.
The pendulum step is one of the basics of the Russian boxing system. It helps a boxer to be energy efficient, which leads to having greater stamina in the ring. It also helps build kinetic energy and momentum, either for your punches or for moving to a more dominant position. Remember to not get too predictable in your rhythm or you’ll end up being countered. Your pendulum step footwork should look like you are dancing to a song that only you can hear.
Pressure Through Volume
Unlike most other heavyweights, Oleksandr Usyk throws punches in bunches. It is not uncommon to see him throw five or six punch combos. The volume of punches thrown often disorients his opponents, giving him the time to take an angle or move his head to avoid a counter. To further confuse his opponents, Usyk also frequently throws subsequent punches on the same side, breaking his opponents’ expectations and head movements. For example, his opponents often expect the right hook to come after he lands his left hand. Usyk uses this expectation to leverage an opening in landing a second left hand.
Being a southpaw, Usyk primarily finds himself in an open stance situation with his opponents. Most orthodox boxers don’t spend even a fraction of the time on open stance mechanics in comparison to the time they spend on closed stance tactics. Therefore, even seasoned professionals can look like amateurs in their first bout with a southpaw. Despite many people adopting a southpaw stance in recent years, there are still more orthodox fighters than southpaws, which gives southpaw boxers an edge that many call the ‘southpaw advantage’.
The primary dominant angle in an open stance is the outside angle. As a southpaw, taking the outside angle lines your rear shoulder and hand with your opponent’s chin which directly splits their guard. The outside angle happens anytime a boxer gets their lead foot outside of their opponent’s lead foot in an open stance situation. Orthodox opponents will often vie for the outside angle, creating a battle between your lead feet. Usyk not only takes the outside angle easily, but he can also maintain it, and land multiple punches before his opponent can reset.
Although the outside angle is a devastating one, the inside angle can be used for great effects as well. Placing your lead foot to the inside of your opponent’s lead foot lines your lead shoulder and hand up for punches. This is a great tactic as it shortens the distance your jab has to travel, allowing a shorter boxer to out-jab a taller one. Usyk used this technique throughout the entire fight with Anthony Joshua to out-jab the taller man.
Oleksandr Usyk’s jab is undoubtedly a huge part of his overall success as a boxer. A jab is the number one punching technique in boxing, as well as any combat sport with striking, and for good reason. It is the weapon closest to your opponent, your first line of defense, and it is often your quickest punch. Watch as Usyk throws continuous jabs and how it disrupts his opponents’ timing.
Notice how his jab is like a fencer’s rapier, probing the opponents’ guard to find a weakness. Once he does, he unloads with a rapid combination before moving out of range.
Take a look a the video and notice how his jab is similar to the pawing jab of Pernell Whitaker or Guillermo Rigondeux as well.
Usyk’s rapid jabs often cause his opponents to move backward, not because his punches are hard, but because of the pressure he creates. There are many ways to create pressure, but it is generally the ability to crowd an opponent’s space and make them rush their work. Even against opponents who vie for lead foot control and jab dominance, Usyk will often let them take the outside angle, leading them into a jab or lead hook. He also has a unique technique where he places his lead foot outside but slips, keeping his head on the inside while jabbing. This allows him to execute a jab and quickly exit to the outside angle.
Hand Traps And Guard Destruction
Much like his stablemate Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk makes frequent use of hand trapping and guard destructions to create openings for his punches. He alternates between using a double jab and pulling his opponent’s guard down with his lead hand, leaving them unsure of whether to block his punch or to pull their arm back. To further confuse his opponents, Usyk hand traps on the second jab of the double jab. So far, he has not been knocked down in the ring and his opponents have struggled to adapt to his myriad of jab variations.
Usyk has a very similar counter game to the great Manny Pacquiao. If his opponent can match his jab, he can switch to a more slick, broken rhythm style. He then counters his opponent with the split entry counter, a southpaw staple. He places his lead foot and head to the outside and slips his opponent’s jab while throwing his left straight. This is a highly effective move that even Floyd Mayweather struggled to adapt to when he fought Manny Pacquiao.
Try incorporating elements of Usyk’s style into your own boxing game and see how it goes.
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