- American boxer Chris Ousley is looking to introduce himself to a wider boxing market Saturday.
- The middleweight boxes on the undercard of the Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk event in London.
- Ousley told us he is 15 months away from challenging the likes of Jermall Charlo or Tony Harrison.
LONDON — Bullets fizzed close to Chris Ousley’s head when he grew up on the unforgiving streets of Chicago’s infamous South Side.
A gun war between two rival gangs broke out in front of Ousley when he was hanging out with friends by a tennis court in a park when he was a teen.
The Chicago Tribune reported that one of Ousley’s friends was shot in the back. “He survived,” Ousley told his local newspaper.
It was not long before he left for somewhere safer — Madison in Wisconsin, 150 miles from where he was born.
“When you live by the gun, you end up dead or in jail, and you can only run yourself into the ground living the street life so I got out,” Ousley told the Tribune.
“If it wasn’t for sports or school, I’d have lived the street life. But I wanted more. I wanted to make my own lane.”
Speaking to Insider this week, ahead of the biggest fight of his life on the Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk event at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Ousley maintains that Chicago remains his home.
But he is becoming a man of the world, traveling across the US, vacationing in Las Vegas, and boxing in one of Britain’s premier soccer stadiums. He fights the more experienced Khasan Baysangurov at middleweight.
It was a visit to Vegas that changed Ousley’s life forever. He was absorbing the mega-casino skyline, the swimming pools, the day-clubs, the night-life, and the energy. He wasn’t even thinking about boxing.
It was 2013 — a Floyd Mayweather fight week — and with his fight dominating the billboards and the neon across the city, boxing was impossible to ignore.
Mayweather was days away from fighting Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Ousley couldn’t help but check it out, and that was all he needed to get hooked on the sport.
“My intention wasn’t even to go to the fight, I was just vacationing. I happened to be around during fight time. The energy was just insane, and it made me think, ‘Maybe, I should try boxing.'”
Mayweather has been an inspiration to numerous young athletes growing up, some of whom long to be signed by his fight firm Mayweather Promotions.
“He paved the way for generations to come,” Ousley said.
And it’s not just about how he revolutionized the ways in which a combat athlete can make money, Ousley told us. It was also down to being a salesperson, and making boxing a household sport during his fight nights.
“Next thing you know, 18 months later I was fighting on an Olympic stage at a trial, and turned pro right after,” he said.
Ousley was a quick learner. Though he’d left Chicago, those streets were still a part of him.
His wife once asked him why he never wears
outside, even when it’s hot.
He told her he’s a sneaker-head, born-and-bred, just in case anyone wanted their blood-shed. You can’t fight in flip flops, he said.
He never wants to be put in a situation where he can’t defend himself.
“I’ve always been a fighter. I’m from the South Side of Chicago, so you know I’ve always been a fighter. It came to me naturally.” Ousley told us.
Ousley steps up in class Saturday on one of the biggest stages of all
Ousley’s fame will grow significantly should he win in style this weekend.
The man who has helped shape him is Manny Robles, a California-based boxing coach famed for steering Andy Ruiz Jr. to the heavyweight title in 2019.
Robles has been training Ousley for three years, “way before any hype,” the fighter said. Robles taught him defense, being in position to punch, and being in position to defend. “He stresses that so much.”
Ousley added: “Beyond that, he has a stable of fighters that helps me, and so my sparring is top tier. That’s why we’re taking such a jump in competition here — because if I’m sparring top tier, why not fight top tier?”
Robles told Insider that Ousley continues to learn day-by-day. He called him a natural athlete because of his background in American football.
But the thing he’s trying to teach him now, during fight week, is how to handle big events. “This is definitely the biggest stage of his career,” Robles told us.
“I’m teaching him how to psychologically prepare for an event like this one, because he’s never seen it before.
“I think he’s ready for it,” said Robles. “He’s made progress in the gym, he’s had very good sparring, good work, and it’s led up to this moment.
“He’s a boxer-counter puncher. But we’re fighting in London now, in the UK, and so he’s got to fight. He’s got to take it to his opponent and prove to the fans, the world, that he’s here, and will be here for a while.”
Ousley wants to oust Jermall Charlo from the division
Victory this weekend will open doors.
Ousley is already mapping out his ideal career path, and though he’s comfortable operating in the 160-pound middleweight division, he’d be happy taking fights at super welterweight (154-pounds), too.
He called Saturday’s bout “a mega fight” but is confident of winning, catapulting himself to the next level, and fighting for a legitimate world championship within 15 months.
It would mean even bigger fights against some of the best boxers in America.
“I’ll fight at 160 or 154,” he said. “I’ll take the fight with Jermall and Jermell Charlo, Tony Harrison, anybody. At the end of the day, I don’t care about experience. If I did, I wouldn’t have selected this opponent. I know I can fight.
“Against a Charlo or Harrison, it would be a good build-up, good promotion, a good fight,” he said. “Harrison out of Detroit — I’m from Chicago. We can do a Chicago vs. Texas thing against the Charlos.”
Robles told us Ousley has been developing at such a high rate that he is “not far” from catching up to the level that the Charlos, Harrison, or Demetrius Andrade are operating at today.
“He’s not far at all,” said Robles. “It all depends on Saturday. It’s not just winning, it’s how you win. He’s got to win, and look impressive. If we do that, he can move on to bigger and better things.”
Things that are considerably bigger and better than the threat of stray gunfire in Chicago, no doubt.