Oleksandr Usyk has 'some of the best fundamental boxing skills ever' - what makes the champion so good?
5 August 2022, 22:55 | Updated: 6 August 2022, 13:32
When top British heavyweights are preparing for Oleksandr Usyk it is perhaps a surprise that the man often called in for sparring is a 3-0 Irish prospect.
Thomas Carty has been summoned into camp with Anthony Joshua, the former heavyweight champion who rematches Usyk live on Sky Sports Box Office on August 20, as well as Dereck Chisora.
"I've described myself as the Poundland version of Usyk," he laughed.
But Carty is a heavyweight southpaw who's been looking to box like Usyk from early on in his own amateur career.
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"I learned how to punch properly and I've always had really solid fundamentals," Carty told Sky Sports.
"I was mobile as well for a big guy and on top of that as I started to mature more I got that bit stronger and because I was punching properly, I've got a bit of pop now in the shots.
"I suppose I've developed a kind of slick, power-punching style, Which is quite interesting to watch, southpaw as well so the shots are quite flashy then when you throw them."
He does though understand what makes Usyk such a formidable fighter.
"What makes him effective and good is how mobile he is. His feet are really, really good. His fundamentals are, I would say up there, with some of the best fundamental boxing skills ever, in my opinion," Carty said.
"Then you have the element of being left-handed and things not being the way they usually are. If there are a hundred guys in the boxing gym, less than five per cent are going to be lefties.
"It's something that's not seen a lot, I think, at the elite level of heavyweights," he added. "Obviously you can pick out examples but few and far between.
"I remember watching him against [Tony] Bellew and he was throwing jab-left hooks, the next week in sparring I'm throwing jab-left hooks and there's guys going to sleep in the ring. It works. It's proven.
"If I can emulate Usyk even one per cent, I'll be doing well."
That's something Carty has been looking to do for a long time now, all the way back when Usyk was still an amateur.
"I used to pick out guys I could rob some of their moves or emulate some of their moves and Usyk was similar height," Carty explained. "Similar weight class, left handed, mobile on the feet, nice straight punches.
"So I'm going to try and copy this guy because he's doing well for himself. Little did I know [back then] where he'd end up, Olympic champion and world champion in the heavyweight division. It's a bit crazy because he was a cruiserweight as an amateur, 91kgs, so I used to try and emulate that guy a lot."
He'd been doing it so well that he was called in for his first sparring camp with then-world champion Joshua after he'd had only one professional fight.
"To say surreal doesn't even cut it. I've never seen another Irish heavyweight sparring Joshua, nobody has really done it and the fact that I was over there for a good few weeks and they were loving what I was doing at 1-0 was really great for the confidence," Carty said.
"I was asked to do my thing and whatever I naturally do to replicate Usyk they were happy with, there was nothing forced upon me to do this move, or that move. They just wanted me to be myself, be comfortable and be as competitive and good as I could be and that's what I did.
"It was a really enjoyable experience, and I emphasise surreal because Anthony Joshua, two-time heavyweight champion of the world, is a guy that me and my mates go watch on the telly all the time, every time that he's fighting, then all of a sudden you're being brought in to help him prepare."
It was an educational experience for Carty too. He saw what set the top heavyweights apart from the rest.
"Obviously they have really great facilities available to them but apart from facilities, there's no secret, there's nothing that they do in the gym that's not available to you to do in the gym. The difference is the intensity at which they do everything at," Carty said. "It's the intensity, that's what makes the difference.
"They all train with a great level of intensity. What struck me with Joshua is how much training he does, how hard he trains. Like that, there's no secret to what he was doing. He was just doing a lot of training a lot of the time and then recovering really well. Joshua really lives the life.
"The margins between where I'm at and the very top, it's not that big of a gap but it's very hard to make up the difference," he added.
"So it's doable but you need to consistently chip away at that and it'll happen."
Carty next boxes tonight (August 6) on the undercard of Michael Conlan's bout with Miguel Marriaga at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Then he wants to fight for the Irish heavyweight title as soon as possible.
"I definitely want to win that because when I win that I'd be the first person to win it since Tyson Fury. He's the last name on the belt. I would fight for it next but I need an opponent I need someone that will take the fight against me. I need to build up more of a name so I can offer these guys more money and that's the only way I can see it happening," he said.
"Because they definitely won't fight me for fun."
Anthony Joshua's huge heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk is on Saturday August 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Usyk vs Joshua 2 now!
(c) Sky Sports 2022: Oleksandr Usyk has 'some of the best fundamental boxing skills ever' - what makes the champion so good?