At one point, Deontay Wilder and Oleksandr Usyk were just one fight away from an Olympic showdown.
The pair stand today as two of the best heavyweights in the world and would make millions if they competed against each other.
In their amateur days, however, the pair did almost without mega-money at stake.
Wilder started boxing relatively late at age 20 and showed impressive progression as he quickly rose through the ranks to claim a place on the US Olympic team.
He was 22 years old when he represented his country at the 2008 Games.
For Usyk, who started boxing at the age of 15, the development within Ukraine’s national line-up made him serious progress.
When he went to Beijing for the Olympics, he was only 21.
Although they are both heavyweights today, Wilder and Usyk were naturally less bulky as youngsters.
Confusingly, however, the amateur boxing system is not geared towards the pros, which is why the professional cruiserweight division is known to the amateurs as “heavyweight.”
Today, the professional ‘heavyweight’ division is known by amateurs as ‘super heavyweight’.
In Beijing 2008, Wilder and Usyk were both in the amateur ‘heavyweight’ division and found themselves on the same side of the draw, putting them on a collision course.
A possible semi-final showdown with medals at stake awaited.
In the eighth finals Wilder started victorious by sidelining the Algeria Abdelaziz Toulbini.
Usyk followed by beating China’s Yushan Nijiati.
This brought them both into the quarterfinals.
Wilder fulfilled his part of the bargain, beating Morocco’s Mohamed Arjaoui, then attention turned to Usyk fighting in the next fight.
Had he beat Italy’s Clemente Russo, he would have been next against Wilder, but sadly it wasn’t to be.
The more experienced Italian, and reigning world champion, defeated Usyk and sent him home from the competition.
In the semifinals, Russo marched through one more time when he defeated Wilder, who took home a bronze medal.
After this result, the Bronze Bomber chose his famous nickname and turned professional.
Usyk, meanwhile, chose to remain an amateur and entered a new Olympic cycle.
Four years later, he earned the ultimate redemption in London 2012 by beating Russo in the final to win gold.
Fast forward a decade to 2022, and Usyk is now the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight world champion as a professional.
He has made it clear that his first priority is to fight for the undisputed titles against WBC champion Tyson Fury, but should this not materialize, the Ukrainian has named Wilder as the man he would target.
The Bronze Bomber returns against Robert Helenius on Saturday night and so we may once again be just one fight away from Wilder vs Usyk.
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