INGLEWOOD, Calif.- WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk and Thabiso Mchunu sleepwalked their way through nine rounds Saturday at The Forum, a poor showing for a weight class revered for its action affairs.

Oleksandr Usyk vs. Thabiso Mchunu
Oleksandr Usyk retains cruiserweight title with a ninth-round stoppage in HBO debut

Undefeated WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (11-0, 10 KOs) methodically broke down #12 IBF challenger Thabiso Mchunu (17-3, 11 KOs) in stopping him in the 9th round on Saturday night on HBO from the Forum in Inglewood, California. Boxing News 24 had Usyk ahead eight rounds to zero at the time of the stoppage in the 9th.

Usyk vs. Mchunu Full Fight Replay – December 18, 2016

The 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk knocked the South African Mchunu down twice in round 9. The fight was halted by referee Lou Moret after the second knockdown of the round. The official time of the stoppage was at 2:53 of the 9th. Usyk also knocked Mchunu down in the 6th round as well.

The stoppage in the 9th round was a result of Usyk cornering Mchunu against the ropes and unloading a blizzard of punches that he couldn’t block or duck. Mchunu tried his best to duck the shots and counter, but Usyk just kept throwing more and more until he dropped. After Mchunu got back up, Usyk continued to unload on him until he fell for the second time. This time referee Lou Moret stepped in and halted the fight.

Mchunu didn’t look all that hurt. He was just overwhelmed with punches and had no way of surviving that kind of attack against someone as big as the 6’3” Usyk. What made Usyk more effective was the way that he kept changing the angles of his attacks by moving his feet to get to different sides of Mchunu to unload his power shots. This is a style that is common with Eastern European fighters. They tend to move to the side where they can land to a different area of the head and body. They then switch sides while still throwing punches. It’s very hard for fighters like Mchunu to get used to that kind of style without having experience with those fighters. Mchunu obviously didn’t have the experience to handle the attacking style of Usyk.

The boxing fan at the Forum booed the slow pace of the fight through the first five rounds, as the taller 6’3” Usyk chose box the shorter 5’11” Mchunu from the outside by peppering him with fast shots, but not loading up with anything of note until the 6th. The fans wanted to see the 29-year-old Usyk go after Mchunu to get him out of there quickly. Instead, Usyk chooses to mostly jab and throw lighter, faster combinations that seemed to demoralize Mchunu over the rounds.

Usyk (11-0, 10 KOs) didn’t punch in combination, but when he did land, his concussive shots did damage. The Olympic gold medalist dropped Mchunu with a left uppercut in Round 6, and then two more knockdowns in Round 9 led referee, Dr. Lou Moret, to wave the fight off at 1:53.

Mchunu was still able to use his fast hands to land single pot shots in each round. With his Mayweather-esque fighting style and fast hand speed, Mchunu was no pushover. Usyk kept Mchunu in the fight by choosing to box him rather than attacking him all-out to bang him out the way that Illunga Makabu and Zack Mwekessa had done in the past in knocking him out.
At the urging of his corner, Usyk turned up the head on Mchunu in the 6th round and unloaded a flurry of power shots that put the South African down on the canvas. The shot that put Mchunu down was a left to the head, but it was a combination of nonstop power shots that really led to the knockdown. Mchunu was trying his best to duck all the incoming, but there was just too may punch flying at him. Usyk was hitting him at will at that point in the round, and there was no defense for all those punches.

Mchunu had his moments in the fight in landing some nice pot shots in each round. Mchunu appeared to have most of his success in the first five rounds before Usyk turned up the heat on him in the 6th.

In the 8th round, Usyk hit Mchunu seemingly at will with his fast power shots to the head and body. At one point, Usyk stood and put both of his hands behind his head; as if to show that he was having an easy night at the office. Surprisingly, Mchunu didn’t try and nail Usyk when he was defenseless.

Mchunu could have at least tried to land something. The fact that Mchunu didn’t try and land a punch during that showboating sequence was a sign that he was confused, discouraged and likely a little punch drunk from all the shots that Usyk had been peppering him with. Usyk was hitting Mchunu with so many punches. They weren’t always huge shots, but there were so many of them. Mchunu had no chance of surviving for the full 12 rounds in a fight like this.

Overall, it was a good performance from Usyk in dominating a very good fighter in Mchunu to get a knockout. No one has ever dominated Mchunu the way that Usyk did. Mchunu didn’t win around tonight. That shows you how good Usyk is.

Usyk wants to become a star in the U.S. For that to happen, he’s likely going to need to change his boxing style to become more fan friendly like middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. The U.S fans seem to prefer fighters that slug-like Golovkin, Manny Pacquiao and Saul Canelo Alvarez. Usyk will need to attack his opponents earlier in his fights and throw more power shots if he wants to become a star in the U.S. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was an exception to the rule in him becoming a star in the U.S by using his speed to box his opponents. But historically, the guys that were always popular were fighters that slugged like Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, George Foreman, and Oscar De La Hoya. Those were all boxer/punchers rather than pure boxers. What we saw here tonight from Usyk was him choosing to box much of the fight until the 6th. Once the fight got to the 6th, Usyk began to let his hands go and wore down Mchunu.

Where Usyk goes to next is unknown. He would do well if he fought a unification fight against the other cruiserweight champions in Tony Bellew, Denis Lebedev, Beibut Shumenov and Murat Gassiev. Those would all be good fights for Usyk if he could get them. If not, then he could look to defend against his #1 WBO challenger Noel Gevor next. That would be a good fight.