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Fight Picks: Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk

Anthony Joshua and Oleksander Usyk at the final presser ahead of their unified heavyweight title clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing.
23
Sep

On Saturday, IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua will face his WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

The two will collide on DAZN, starting at 2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT and on Sky Sports Box Office in the U.K. at 7 p.m. GMT.

Joshua, who is rated No. 1 by The Ring at heavyweight, behind champion Tyson Fury, was the 2012 Olympic gold medalist. After turning professional he won British and Commonwealth championships before stopping American Charles Martin (KO 2) to lift the IBF title. The hugely popular Brit defeated Wladimir Klitschko (TKO 11) and Joseph Parker (UD 12) to add WBA and WBO titles to his collection and was largely dominant against solid competitors Carlos Takam (TKO 10) and Alexander Povetkin (TKO 7).

The powerful Brit was shockingly stopped by Andy Ruiz Jr. (TKO 7) but regained his titles in a direct rematch by one-sided unanimous decision. The 31-year-old has since beaten Kubrat Pulev (KO 9).

Usyk, who is rated No. 10 heavyweight by The Ring and No. 4 on the mythical pound-for-pound list, was also a 2012 Olympic gold medalist. He cleaned out the cruiserweight division, beating Krzysztof Glowacki (UD 12), Marco Huck (TKO 10), Mairis Briedis (MD 12), Murat Gassiev (UD 12) and Tony Bellew (TKO 8), all in their home countries. The manner in which he outboxed Gassiev to win the WBSS and become undisputed champion was particularly eye-catching.

Usyk decided to move up to heavyweight, but injuries and the pandemic have limited him to just two fights, a routine win over late substitute Chazz Witherspoon (RTD 7) and perennial trier Dereck Chisora (UD 12).

How will the much bigger Joshua (24-1, 22 knockouts) deal with the outstanding boxing skills and footwork of the gifted Ukrainian? How will Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) deal with the considerable firepower of a real heavyweight? Can Usyk make it a boxing match? Does he have enough pop to keep Joshua from walking him down and landing something significant?

Online gambling group William Hill lists Joshua as an 2/5 (-250) favorite, while Usyk is priced at 9/4 (+225); the draw is 20/1 (+2000).

Here’s how the experts see it: THE RING MAGAZINE/RINGTV.COM

TOM GRAY: JOSHUA UD

“On paper this is the toughest fight of Joshua’s career. Many people will say Wladimir Klitschko, but that’s in hindsight. Wlad was in his 40s, coming off a loss and he was inactive. Usyk is a former Olympic champion, unbeaten as a professional, a southpaw, and he has attributes that will give Joshua trouble, including adept mobility and handspeed. But despite all of that buildup, I have a lot of faith in Robert McCracken’s quality as a coach. I think Team Joshua can come up with a disciplined game plan that defuses the smaller man’s weapons. The jab will be key in maintaining the range and pace that the champion requires, but he has to be very patient. I don’t expect Joshua to bullrush Usyk – that’s just not the way he does business – but his presence and omnipresent power should keep the challenger honest. If it doesn’t and Usyk is able to score regularly, then Joshua is in a world of trouble.”

ANSON WAINWRIGHT: JOSHUA UD

“Excellent fight, very intriguing. Joshua will hold considerable size advantages over Usyk. However, the gifted Ukrainian isn’t your average fighter and in terms of skills is the most talented fighter AJ has faced to this juncture. I do put credence in the old adage, ‘A good big un beats a good little un.’ We saw Usyk have a few issues in his two heavyweight fights against the naturally bigger men. Joshua is light years better than Chazz Witherspoon and Dereck Chisora. Usyk will have to box the perfect fight to beat Joshua, can he do that? Sure, he can. I don’t think he can hurt Joshua so to win on the road will be very difficult. I think Joshua wins a unanimous decision, something like 8-4, 9-3 on the cards.”

LEE GROVES: JOSHUA UD

“In beating Kubrat Pulev last December, we saw a mix of the predatory pre-Klitschko Joshua and the more cautious post-Klitschko version as he out-boxed the mandatory challenger, then slugged him to the ground in round nine. Meanwhile, Usyk experienced some shaky moments against Dereck Chisora last Halloween before winning on points thanks to his footwork, ring generalship and sharp hitting in the middle rounds. One major factor favoring Joshua is that Usyk will not have his usual height and reach advantages, which will make it tougher for him to get to the scoring area. A second is that Joshua also has long-range skills and a third is that AJ has an enormous edge in shot-for-shot power. Finally, how much effect will Usyk’s added bulk have on his mobility, the biggest advantage he has over Joshua? Usyk, who, at 34, is nearly three years older than Joshua, can win if he imposes his high work rate on a risk-averse Joshua, find enough holes in the champ’s defense and avoid hitting the floor, but I believe Joshua’s size, strength and power will be in play often enough for him to win on points.”

Usyk’s jab, as shown here in his eight-round stoppage of Tony Bellew in 2018, could cause Joshua problems if he gets close enough to land it (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

MARTY MULCAHEY: JOSHUA UD

“Anthony Joshua showed in his last outing against Andy Ruiz that he can deal with a talented boxer by using his reach and timing to nullify an elite boxer’s best traits. Now, I think Oleksandr Usyk is a better boxer than Ruiz, but also believe Usyk carries less power and one punch danger to Joshua. Usyk comes to the dance with more consistent volume, but I see Joshua’s accuracy and physicality will tell on Usyk, who will not be able to employ his trademark late rounds pressure. As with Ruiz, Joshua won’t trade, but stay on the outside using his jab to control the fight and the left hook to win over the judges. It won’t be lopsided, but a clear 116-112 victory puts Joshua on his way to a showdown with the Fury-Wilder rematch winner.”

MICHAEL MONTERO: JOSHUA UD

“In a pound for pound sense, Usyk is the more skilled fighter. But as the saying goes, ‘Size Matters.’ The Ukrainian is a natural 200-pound fighter bulking up to face a 250-pound fighter; that’s an increase of 25 percent. The cruiserweight-to-heavyweight move is the most difficult in all of boxing. That is why, in the division’s 40-plus year history, only one man has been the legitimate cruiserweight champion and went on to become the legit heavyweight champ (Evander Holyfield). That, combined with this fight being in the UK, means Usyk will be looking up a mountain on September 25. Give me Anthony Joshua by unanimous decision in a mostly technical fight.”

NORM FRAUENHEIM: JOSHUA SD

“A tricky fight. Maybe, Joshua’s toughest, although you’d have to say his loss to Andy Ruiz in their first bout was. Joshua just didn’t know that going in. But Oleksandr Usyk has been there, a looming threat to Joshua since both won gold at different weights at the 2012 Olympics. Joshua has all of the measurable advantages – height, weight, reach. Usyk, who fights at heavyweight for the third time, will be the smaller man. But his presence is intangible, yet always there. Call it IQ, poise, instinct or just guts. He knows his way around the ring, which means Joshua will have to be vigilant throughout and tireless with a jab that controls pace and distance. Guess here, Joshua will do exactly that, but it won’t be easy in winning a fight close enough to dictate a rematch.”

RON BORGES: JOSHUA PTS

“This is an interesting contrast of styles, which will test both men but especially Usyk. The size differential will expose him to constant risk when he tries to score. Although he is the superior boxer, Usyk will have to take chances to score enough to win. Joshua’s dilemma is less threatening, but more complex. He has to figure how to get through the complicated defense of a somewhat faster, more agile man. What will save Joshua is that he is not a big risk taker himself. That will expose him less and allow his jab to control the tempo and win him the fight on points.”

BOXING INSIDERS

DUKE MCKENZIE (FORMER THREE-DIVISION TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST): USYK TKO

“I think Usyk is all wrong for Joshua. Had Usyk been a brawler, that would suit Joshua but he faces a supreme unbeaten boxer who will be more than motivated at the prospect of beating Joshua. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Usyk will have been working on strength training and should weigh a career heaviest and Joshua a career lightest for speed, works in Usyk’s favor. I take Usyk by late stoppage.”

RAUL MARQUEZ (FORMER WORLD CHAMPION/COMMENTATOR): JOSHUA KO

“Usyk is an intelligent southpaw, who controls range and has great footwork. Joshua is athletic and uses his physical size and strength. Usyk doesn’t have power to hurt Joshua. Joshua is too big and strong. Size matters. Late round KO for Joshua.”

SERGIO MORA (FORMER WORLD CHAMPION/ COMMENTATOR): JOSHUA PTS

“I’m picking AJ by close decision. I see Usyk giving AJ fits, but not hurting him. Joshua has become a better boxer using his jab and moving laterally. Usyk probably would’ve beaten AJ pre-Andy Ruiz, but not this version.”

Anthony Joshua (right) exhibited fine form vs. Kubrat Pulev. Photo by Dave Thompson

Anthony Joshua (right) exhibited fine form vs. Kubrat Pulev. Will his power and size be too much for Usyk to handle? (Photo by Dave Thompson)

CAMILLE ESTEPHAN (PROMOTER, EYE OF THE TIGER PROMOTIONS): JOSHUA PTS

“I think Anthony Joshua wins this fight. It is a great fight for boxing. With Usyk’s foot speed, boxing I.Q. and conditioning, he is a very live dog. I think Anthony Joshua will have the advantage of power and weight. He should bully his way to a victory.”

ARSLANBEK MAKMUDOV (HEAVYWEIGHT CONTENDER): JOSHUA KO

“Anthony Joshua will beat Oleksandr Usyk because he is a real heavyweight and he has a real punch. Joshua is powerful, but Usyk can give problems to anyone. Even if Usyk has a perfect amateur career and a lot of skills, he doesn’t have the most important thing a heavyweight needs to have to be respected, which is power. For example, Chisora didn’t look bad in his fight against Usyk even if Oleksandr is a better boxer. The reason why, it’s because Chisora did not respect Usyk’s power. Joshua will win by KO around Round 9 or 10.”

MARC RAMSAY (TRAINER): JOSHUA TKO 10

“I think it will be a competitive but boring fight. Joshua has all the tools, skill and size to overcome Usyk. Joshua TKO 10.”

STEVE FARHOOD (TV ANALYST): JOSHUA UD

“I favor Joshua on points. He will have to be more aggressive than usual, but he has the size to apply intelligent pressure against Usyk, who will be a moving target. Judges like aggressiveness. Joshua by unanimous decision in a chess match.”

KATHY DUVA (PROMOTER, MAIN EVENTS): DRAW

“Usyk is the better all-around fighter. But, of course, in the UK he will likely need a KO to win. The Ruiz fights show that Joshua is challenged by a boxer. So Usyk might outbox him. But this is England. And Joshua is England’s biggest star. So, I’m picking the draw.”

JOLENE MIZZONE (MATCHMAKER, MAIN EVENTS): USYK UD

“I am going with Usyk since he is the better boxer and always go the way of a boxer, but the fight is in the U.K., so, it will be very hard to get the decision. Also, we all don’t know how good Usyk’s chin is, but I believe if it holds up, he will win a unanimous decision, maybe not on the cards, but in everyone who is watching’s eyes.”

ROBERT DIAZ (MATCHMAKER, GOLDEN BOY): JOSHUA UD 

“Good fight, that I am looking forward to watching. I see a 12-round bout and as much as many say it is a dangerous fight for AJ, I believe he will box, use his size, his jab and his footwork to clearly outwork Usyk over 12 rounds. I believe Usyk will be a step behind AJ In the end. AJ by unanimous decision, 8 to 4.”

KALLE SAUERLAND (PROMOTER, WASSERMAN BOXING): JOSHUA TKO

“My pick is Joshua by late stoppage. I expect both guys to box the early rounds and I think the early rounds will go to Usyk, but I think Usyk has shown in all of his fights he normally gets tagged and Joshua will land a fight-changing punch in rounds 7-9 and that will turn the fight. Joshua will grind him down. I don’t see an outright KO, but I see a stoppage coming late.”

ALEX STEEDMAN (COMMENTATOR): JOSHUA PTS

“This is an intriguing and fascinating fight. We know Usyk has the skills to offset a significant size disadvantage, but as good as he is, Usyk is not (Vasiliy) Lomachenko. He managed difficult early moments against Chisora to win handily enough, but it never looked entirely comfortable to me. Certainly, AJ doesn’t bring the same heat or high guard, jab-press these days, he’s more circumspect, but against Pulev he looked like he’s finding the balance between boxer and puncher. Usyk tends to wear down opponents technically rather than bomb them out and AJ may have an issue with stamina as well as punch resistance so there is hope. But I think Usyk fights too close to range and danger for me and it looks like he may have to take more chances against the heavies. This should give Joshua the opportunity to work behind the jab and win by decision in a fight that may have echoes of his victory over Parker.”

JOHN SCULLY (TRAINER): JOSHUA PTS

“I think stylistically it could be an awkward and difficult night for Joshua. I really like Usyk against most fighters, but Joshua is an absolutely upper-tier at heavyweight and when push comes to shove, I would have to go with him to win a decision.”

RUDY HERNANDEZ (TRAINER): JOSHUA PTS

“It’s a really interesting fight. A really good small fighter and a very good big fighter. I think Joshua’s size and power as well as his experience and discipline will keep Usyk away. In the first few rounds Joshua will have to adapt to the speed and movement of Usyk. Then he’ll control the fight with the jab. The fight stays interesting because we’re all waiting for that big shot I don’t think comes. I think the fight goes the distance and Joshua wins a decision.”

CHRIS ALGIERI (FORMER WBO JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHT TITLEHOLDER): JOSHUA UD

“Usyk has phenomenal movement. His ability to move laterally, change directions while firing is something you don’t see at these higher weights. He is also used to fighting bigger men. He also has enough power to shock the bigger men. Joshua has also shown some weakness with handspeed and obviously his chin isn’t going down with the all-time greats … but when Anthony Joshua is on, he has the goods to be the best heavyweight in the world. Can Usyk beat Anthony Joshua? Yes. Do I think he will? No. I think the physical size and his very respectable athleticism will get him through a sometimes awkward, and less than thrilling victory.”

Final Tally: Joshua 19-2-1

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright

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