After an average summer of boxing, we start the fall season with a big heavyweight showdown this Saturday. At the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, UK, Anthony Joshua will defend his WBA, IBF, and WBO titles against former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Just recently, Anthony “AJ” Joshua (24-1, 22 KO’s) from the UK extended his contract with Matchroom Boxing, and it was a good move by the company. Joshua is one of the biggest stars in boxing today, and rightfully so.
Canelo Alvarez is the face of boxing, but Joshua is right there with him. Just like Canelo, Joshua sells out stadiums when he fights in the UK.
Even when Joshua made his US debut against Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, he sold out Madison Square Garden in New York. Joshua was seen as the future in the heavyweight division from the beginning.
Joshua was a good amateur boxer who wounded up winning the gold medal in the super heavyweight division at the 2012 Olympic Games. Since turning professional, Joshua has not disappointed.
He has quality wins over Dillian Whyte, Dominic Breazeale, Carlos Takam, Wladimir Klitschko, Joseph Parker, Alexander Povetkin, Andy Ruiz Jr and Kubrat Pulev. When looking at the top heavyweights today, you can say he has the best resume between all of them, and that includes Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.
The only setback in his career was an upset TKO loss to Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, but then he avenged that loss in the same year by outpointing Ruiz in the rematch.
Joshua is aiming to be the Lineal champion of the division and needs to wait for the result of the Fury/Wilder match coming up. In the meantime, Joshua will take on a credible challenger that is expected to test him.
Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KO’s) of Ukraine, is ready for the next step in his heavyweight journey. Usyk was an outstanding amateur and also an Olympian.
Usyk competed in the 2008 Olympics and 2012 Olympics. Like Joshua, he won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in the heavyweight division.
Usyk started his professional career in the cruiserweight division and got to a quick start in his career. In only his ninth fight, Usyk became a world champion.
To prove he was the best in the division, he competed in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), fighting the best fighters of the division. He made it to the finals and won the tournament.
By doing this, he became the undisputed cruiserweight champion in the four-belt era. Usyk does not even have twenty professional fights under his belt yet, and he has already defeated quality fighters such as Murat Gassiev, Mairis Briedis, Marco Huck, Michael Hunter, Tony Bellew, Thabiso Mchunu, and Krzysztof Glowacki.
Now that Usyk is a heavyweight, he’s had two wins in the weight class against Chazz Witherspoon and Dereck Chisora. Usyk has tested the waters against bigger men but will that be enough to dethrone Joshua?
In sizing up the two fighters, Usyk is the more skillful fighter between the two. Usyk is a crafty southpaw fighter that boxes very well and uses good lateral movement.
This is not to say Joshua is a bad boxer, but Usyk is just a little better. Usyk will also have the speed advantage over Joshua as Joshua is a bigger and heavier fighter.
Noticeably, Joshua looks slimmer coming to this fight. It seems Joshua understands that he will need as much speed as possible and a better gas tank.
Joshua is known to come heavily muscled in his previous fights. The power will go to Joshua, obviously, as most of his wins are by knockout.
Usyk has good punching power, too, but most of the stoppages were against smaller men in the cruiserweight division. Who has the better chin?
That’s an interesting one. So far, Usyk has shown to have the better chin, but if Joshua lands his power shots, can he handle the power of Joshua?
For Joshua, his chin is questionable. He has been knockdown in fights and was also stopped by Andy Ruiz in their first fight.
However, those were against big punching heavyweights. Does Usyk have enough power to hurt Joshua?
I see the fight being competitive, with Usyk taking the early rounds with his boxing. Expect to see Joshua confused by the speed and movement of Usyk.
I believe the fight will then shift in the mid-rounds, and Joshua should take over the fight if he starts to impose his size and strength. If Joshua uses his jab well and backs up Usyk, this can end badly for Usyk.
In Usyk’s last fight with Chisora, he struggled when Chisora imposed his size and strength on him. I expect Joshua to win by decision or a possible late-round TKO over Usyk.
In this case, I see the bigger fighter beating the smaller fighter. The odds are against Usyk, and he should pursue a knockout in the fight. Unfortunately, with the fight in the UK, the scorecards will not favor Usyk if the fight goes to distance.
The stakes are high for both fighters. For Joshua, he needs to win in order to have a big showdown with Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder. For Usyk, a win will rock the heavyweight division, and he will be a player in the division.
For history, Usyk will be one of the few fighters to win a cruiserweight world title and a heavyweight world title. A win over Joshua will be almost comparable to when former cruiserweight champion Evander Holyfield defeated Buster Douglas for the Lineal Heavyweight Championship back in 1990.