Although UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman recently suggested a cross-over to boxing to make some dream fights happen, one legendary sweet science trainer believes that unless matched up with a stylistically favorable opponent, Usman could not beat “B-level” competition in the boxing.
In the lead-up to his recent UFC 268 title defense rematch against Colby Covington, Usman (20-1) spoke publicly about his interest in making a fight happen between himself and boxing superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Both are considered the best pound-for-pound fighters in their respective sports, and the matchup would surely draw in a great deal of attention from fans of both industries.
However, considering how MMA greats like Tyron Woodley, Conor McGregor, and Ben Askren failed spectacularly in their forays into boxing, there are concerns that an Usman vs Alvarez matchup may not be as competitive as the champion believes. International Boxing Hall of Famer Teddy Atlas is one individual who doesn’t think the booking is very realistic.
Teddy Atlas says Kamaru Usman would have trouble with even journeyman boxers
Although the legendary trainer, and broadcaster has a great deal of respect for the talents of “The Nigerian Nightmare,” he doesn’t feel his skills would allow for much success against even second or third-tier boxing veterans, let alone an absurdly skilled pugilist like “Canelo.”
“He’s got physicality, he’s very strong, he’s a decent puncher, and he’s not a bad striker but I think a lot of his strengths are on the mat. But, if you throw him in there with a B-level guy, or even a good journeyman guy, no [he wouldn’t win]. I don’t want to upset anyone but as long as the rules are strictly boxing, no he wouldn’t be able to have tremendous success,” Atlas said in an appearance on The Schmo podcast.
The man who trained Mike Tyson as an amateur and helped to make Michael Moorer a heavyweight champion firmly believes styles make fights. And if put in the right booking, Usman could have a level of success in boxing. But he could not randomly be paired up with just any notable name in the sport.
Atlas explains why Usman needs the right style in a possible boxing opponent
To explain this he used McGregor’s bout against boxing legend Floyd Mayweather, Jr. as an example. Describing how “Notororious’” early success in that fight wasn’t a sign of how gifted he is as a pure boxer, but an example of a matchup that allowed him to shine for several rounds in ways that he would not have been able to do against other opponents.
“McGregor had some success with the great Mayweather for a couple of reasons. Mayweather was 40 and had been off for two and a half years, but another reason is styles make fights. And McGregor was fighting a guy who’s a counter puncher. Who’s gonna give him some room. Let him perform a little bit,” said Atlas. “[Mayweather’s] not gonna be a seek-and-destroy missile. He wasn’t gonna be a guy like [Errol] Spence would have been. One of those go-get-you kinds of guys that would have been aggressive and went right after and maybe exposed him in certain areas. So Mayweather gave him some room, and to the credit of McGregor, he was ahead after four rounds.
“I was there for ESPN, calling the fight. And there’s a reason [he was ahead]. He was staying outside with the counter punching and using his reach, using the jab, and [after] four rounds he was ahead. But then, of course, Mayweather did what he had to do in his realm to break him down, and he did. But the point I’m making is styles make fights,” he continued. “UFC, MMA, boxing, I don’t give a damn what it is, that’s consistent. And for Usman, if they pick the right style, that would have a lot to do with the kind of success or lack of success he would have in boxing, but he couldn’t just come in and [win].
“Because he doesn’t have one area where you can say he’s real cute or elusive. You know who would have a better shot? [Sean] O’Malley. Because he’s a little bit more slick and you can put him in with a guy who’s a little slow-footed. I guy that’s not real busy.”
Alvarez competed on the same night as Usman in November and shot down the idea during media appearances in the lead-up to his eventual win over Caleb Plant in Las Vegas.
Do you agree with Atlas that Usman would have trouble beating B-level and journeyman fighters in boxing?