Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua will be reacquainted for the second time on August 20 in Saudi Arabia.
Most of the pressure will be on Joshua – a former two-time titleholder. Check out the best new sportsbooks for betting on boxing.
In my mind, he has to win to remain relevant, but can he?
Semi-retired heavyweight champion Tyson Fury doesn’t think so.
“It wasn’t a complete landslide last time,” Fury said in an article posted on www.dazn.com. “Usyk had a lot of marks on his face. So, Joshua can land a big punch, but I just think that Usyk’s too cute for him. Too smart, too quick, and a southpaw.”
Former champion Deontay Wilder agrees, telling www.givemesport.com.
“I’m going with Usyk again, man,” said Wilder. “A lot of people are, you know what I mean?”
I do. Joshua recently hired Robert Garcia as his head trainer. Garcia is an excellent trainer and should give Joshua a fresh perspective.
The issue is that Usyk, the IBF, WBA, and WBO heavyweight champion, can fight.
The Ukrainian native is the ultimate road warrior. No home cooking for this guy.
Usyk captured his first world title six years ago by traveling to Gdańsk, Poland, his opponent’s home country, and winning. He unified the cruiserweight division by edging Mairis Briedis at the World Boxing Super Series tournament two years later.
In the final, he faced power-punching Russian Murat Gassiev (in Moscow). Usyk boxed beautifully, playing Olay- en route to winning all 12 rounds.
Next up was former champion Tony Bellew – who had issued a challenge.
The bout was in London, where thousands of Bellew’s fans came out to support their man. The early rounds were tight. Usyk, like a scientist studying a bug under a hot light, began to time Bellew.
In round eight, Usyk stunned Bellew with a right and put him to sleep with a beautiful left to the jaw. Check out the top sports betting site for netting on boxing.
Moving up to heavyweight, Usyk struggled against Derek Chisora. Many thought a better heavyweight would roll over him. They figured it would be Anthony Joshua, fresh off a knockout victory over Kubrat Pulev.
Joshua put his career back together after being stopped by Andy Ruiz in 2019. A temple shot did the trick. Joshua regained the heavyweight belt by defeating Ruiz in a rematch six months later. The fight was a battle of extremes as Joshua came in lighter while Ruiz, who had celebrated his time as heavyweight champion a bit too much, came in heavier. Joshua outboxed Ruiz over 12 rounds. The “just win baby” mentality didn’t help the perception that Joshua was one punch away from being buzzed and dropped by Ruiz.
The WBO informed Joshua several months later that he must defend his belt against Usyk. The protected Joshua, and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, didn’t like it.
It took observing the opening round between the two to see why. Call it a foreshadowing of things to come. Usyk was bobbing, feinting, and weaving. Three-to-one favorite Joshua, picked by 19 of 21 writers to defeat Usyk, took it all in. He fired jabs at his mobile opponent. Usyk, fighting out of a southpaw stance, nailed Joshua with straight left hands to the chin and body.
Usyk easily won the early rounds, staggering Joshua in round three.
Joshua did better in rounds five and six, but Usyk, busier and more accurate, dominated round seven. Joshua battled, but Usyk cemented his victory in the 12th and final round, hurting Joshua with combinations.
Joshua is confident the rematch will have a different outcome.
“Things happen in life,” Joshua said. “But resilience, mental toughness, and consistency will always prevail. We’re still on the road, we’re still on the road to undisputed for sure. It’s just a little blip in the road, but I’m focused.”
Focus is one thing, ability is another.
Joshua will have to impose his size and execute. One punch could change things.
Will he be able to stick to his plan after Usyk strafes his face with punches?
It doesn’t seem likely.