Oleksandr Usyk came through his hardest test yet as a heavyweight with a unanimous decision over Derek Chisora on Saturday to move closer to a world title shot.
Tougher assignments lie ahead for the Ukrainian if the former undisputed world cruiserweight champion is to win the title in a second weight division, but Saturday's fight showed Usyk can still utilize his boxing skills against bigger men at heavyweight.
Chisora made it difficult at times for Usyk, who won by scores of 117-112, 115-113 and 115-113 in an event staged behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions at The SSE Arena in London, England.
It was Usyk's second outing at heavyweight after a seventh-round win over American Chazz Witherspoon last October, and the victory secured his status as mandatory challenger for the WBO world title.
Chisora's friend Anthony Joshua holds the WBO, WBA and IBF world titles, and Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs), 33, said his aim is to win all the belts at heavyweight.
"Not just world champion, undisputed world champion," Usyk said, after marking his performance as three of 10.
"My plan is to go home with my family, and I will train. I hadn't boxed in one year."
Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs), 31, is due to face Bulgaria's Kubrat Pulev on Dec. 12, and the plan of promoters is for Joshua to face English rival Tyson Fury, the WBC champion, in a unification fight in 2021.
Usyk, however, wants his shot at the WBO belt first. Joshua, who won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics like Usyk, was one of the few in attendance at the closed London venue, formerly known as Wembley Arena.
As well as being first in line for a shot at the WBO title, Usyk is also ranked No. 2 with the WBC and WBA governing bodies, and No. 3 with the IBF.
This performance was proof, if proof was needed, that Usyk is intent on coming for the world heavyweight champions and the top contenders along the way.
Chisora is a grizzled, experienced heavyweight who has shared the ring with some of the best heavyweights of the past decade. The Zimbabwe-born, north London-based boxer extended Usyk's fellow Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko to points for the WBC world title in 2012 and was knocked out by former WBA champion David Haye -- now his manager -- later that year while losing to reigning WBC king Fury in 2011 and 2014.
Despite defeats against elite competition, Chisora (32-10, 23 KOs), 36, was a big risk to Usyk's fledgling heavyweight career. Chisora, who racked up three wins in 2019 after Dillian Whyte knocked him out almost two years ago, had a big weight advantage.
Usyk, who made six defenses as a world cruiserweight champion, weighed in 38 pounds lighter than Chisora (255 pounds), and the Ukrainian had to cover up and do plenty of energy-sapping wrestling, holding the bigger man in the first two rounds.
Usyk managed to establish more distance in the second round, but Chisora was still able to land some big blows. The Ukrainian's southpaw skills, sharpened alongside his training partner and friend Vasiliy Lomachenko, the former pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter, were more evident in the third round, catching Chisora with a left to the jaw.
Usyk began to pick off Chisora in the fifth round as his punches flowed, gliding around the ring. Chisora shrugged off another big right in the fifth, but he ended the seventh dazed after Usyk opened up with a flurry of clean punches.
Throughout, Usyk showed he can take a top heavyweight's punches and come back with his own.
Chisora would not give up, though, and had some success in the ninth round as he showed plenty of heart in the late rounds.
"It was a real test at heavyweight, Chisora is a big guy, hard guy," Usyk said.
Kambosos earns lightweight title shot
George Kambosos Jr. produced a razor-sharp performance to earn a split-decision victory over Lee Selby, to become one of the mandatory challengers for undisputed lightweight king Teofimo Lopez Jr.
Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs), closed the distance and nullified Selby's movement with his harder punches helping to earn scores of 118-110 and 116-112, with the third judge giving Selby the edge 115-114.
Kambosos, 27, of Sydney, Australia, got to grips with slippery Selby (28-3, 9 KOs), 33, of Barry, Wales, in an eliminator for the IBF lightweight belt.
The Australian improved as the fight went on, and the win sets up the possibility of a lucrative fight against Lopez in 2021.
"I told you I'm too fast, too strong, too powerful," Kambosos said after the fight. "Let's get it [fight versus Lopez] on Down Under. I want the fight with Lopez, that's the fight I want, a unification shot."
Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs), 23, outpointed Vasiliy Lomachenko in an upset on Oct. 17 and will have to defend the IBF belt against Kambosos if he wants to maintain it.
For Selby, this was another setback after losing the IBF world featherweight title to England's Josh Warrington after four defenses in May 2018.
Kambosos, who beat Mickey Bey by a split-decision in New York last December, prepared for Selby with a training camp in Miami and looked sharp early on when he landed some fast combinations in the third round.
But Selby's balletic movement limited Kambosos' attacks and the Welshman was able to score with jabs. Selby was into his rhythm in the fifth round, but Kambosos landed more in the sixth.
Kambosos, who has benefited from sparring many rounds with Manny Pacquiao in the past, read Selby's movement better as the fight went on, which enabled him to land more punches in the second half.
After landing a good left hook in the seventh, Kambosos shook Selby with a chopping right at the end of the eighth.
Selby could not impose himself in the later rounds, and Kambosos' sharp punches on the counter, including a big right in the last round, were enough to give the Australian the decision.
Marshall calls out Shields
On the undercard, Savannah Marshall set up the prospect of a fight against Claressa Shields after stopping British rival Hannah Rankin in seven rounds to win the vacant WBO world middleweight title.
Marshall (9-0, 7 KOs), 29, of Hartlepool, England, did a better job on Rankin (9-5, 2 KOs), 30, of Glasgow, than American Shields managed two years ago.
Rankin took Shields to points, but Marshall forced a stoppage after sinking Rankin for a count following some pinpoint accuracy.
Marshall, a 2012 and 2016 Olympian, beat Shields when they were amateurs eight years ago and wants a rematch with her rival middleweight champion in 2021.
"The only reason Claressa has got the belts is because she got there before me, not because she is better than me," Marshall said. "She doesn't want any of me."
Shields (10-0, 2 KOs), 25, of Flint, Michigan, last fought in January, when she won two world titles at junior middleweight, but she also holds the WBC, WBA and IBF middleweight belts.