Saturday, June 03, 2023  |


Fight Picks: Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2

Photo by Mark Robinson.
Fighters Network

On Saturday, IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titleholder Oleksandr Usyk will face former two-time champion Anthony Joshua in a rematch with the vacant Ring title also on the line at the Jeddah Superdome in Saudi Arabia.

The highly anticipated heavyweight showdown will take place on DAZN, starting at 12:00 p.m. ET/ 9:00 a.m. PT and on Sky Sports Box Office in the U.K. from 6 p.m. GMT.

Usyk, who is rated No. 1 by The Ring at heavyweight, took gold at the 2012 Olympics. 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 become undisputed champion was particularly eye-catching.

After moving up to heavyweight, Usyk was hampered by injuries and the pandemic. He scored a routine win over late substitute Chazz Witherspoon (RTD 7) and outpointed perennial trier Derek Chisora (UD 12). However, the proud Ukrainian reminded everyone just how special he is when he bested Joshua on points last September.

Joshua, who is rated No. 2 by The Ring at heavyweight, was also a 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 32-year-old boxer-puncher then defended his title against Kubrat Pulev (KO 9) before losing to Usyk.

Has Usyk (19-0, 13 knockouts) been able to full concentrate on training with a brutal war taking place in his homeland? Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) was roundly criticized for not being aggressive enough in the first fight. Will be able to able to apply smart, educated pressure to get inside and land his heavy hands? Usyk appears to have bulked up. Will that slow him down? Joshua looks to more svelte. Will that help his speed? Joshua has also changed trainers. Could that be a factor in this eagerly anticipated sequel?

Online gambling group William Hill lists Usyk as an 4/7 (-175) favorite, while Joshua is priced at 13/8 (+163); the draw is 16/1 (+1600).

Here’s how the experts see it:


Oleksandr Usyk (right) jumped from No. 10 to No. 1 in The Ring's heavyweight rankings with his victory over Anthony Joshua. Photo by Mark Robinson/ Matchroom Boxing

Oleksandr Usyk isn’t just a unified heavyweight titleholder, he was the undisputed cruiserweight champ. Photo by Mark Robinson/ Matchroom Boxing

“For selfish reasons, I’d love to see Joshua win this fight. Upsets are always good and this revenge win would secure his legacy as a truly great heavyweight. I just can’t see it. I actually predicted that Usyk would beat Joshua four-and-a-half years before the first fight. AJ’s triumph over Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 was spectacular, but there were flaws in his game, and Usyk was always going to move up from cruiserweight. But by the time the fight came around, we’d had a pandemic, Usyk had been inactive, and he wasn’t impressive in two heavyweight starts. I choked on predicting the Usyk win, but I did say it would be the toughest fight of Joshua’s career. The rest is history. I was ringside for fight one and within six minutes, I knew Usyk was going to prevail. At the end of 12, I had it 9-3 in rounds. The problem for Joshua was how much quicker and agile Usyk was, and that will always be the case no matter what the strategy. AJ does need to be more aggressive, but that’s exactly what Usyk will be waiting for. In the first fight, Joshua was accused of being too cautious, right? Well, he was still shaken up on three different occasions and almost stopped in the closing seconds. If Joshua is applying more pressure and letting his hands go more often, then naturally Usyk will have more opportunities to do damage. I’m going out on a limb, but I think Usyk makes the challenger pay in the first half of this fight. I can’t write Joshua off – he’s got too much class – but I think he’s up against it. The good news for Team Joshua is that I picked Andy Ruiz to win the rematch and we know what happened there. With that said, Usyk is not Andy Ruiz.”

“Usyk was really impressive in the first fight while Joshua underwhelmed. If AJ does the same again, I expect Usyk to beat him even more handily. However, Joshua has been training with Robert Garcia, who I believe will change things up and get the best out of him. I think Joshua is supremely motivated and will be more aggressive, but he will do it in a clever way. I think the ex-champ will start well, Usyk will come into it in the middle rounds, but Joshua will just about shade things late to edge matters, possibly controversially.”

“The hiring of Robert Garcia sends a signal that he wants to address his biggest weakness from the first fight — a lack of aggression — and to win, he will need to assert his superior size and better shot-for-shot power. In other words, Joshua needs to return to the predatory version of himself that marked his rise to the title. But it’s one thing to signal a desire to improve and another to actually do it. Since the Wladimir Klitschko fight, Joshua has become more cautious and scientific, and the first fight proved that doesn’t work against Usyk. Usyk’s efforts to add bulk may help Joshua’s cause because it might lessen his speed advantage, but even if that happens Usyk’s ring generalship and intelligence as well as the confidence, he gained by beating Joshua in England and the determination he’ll carry by fighting for his Ukrainian countrymen will help him compensate. I think Joshua will indeed try to be more aggressive in the early rounds, but Usyk’s skills, smarts and precision will force him back into old habits, habits that will allow Usyk to pile up the points and win another unanimous decision.”

“This fight is not as straightforward to predict as it may seem, given intangibles like the burden of war in Usyk’s home country or a factor like how well Joshua learned from mistakes in his only rematch with Andy Ruiz. Usyk has seemingly put on muscle mass in the last 12 months as well, even though it was his movement and feet that won the fight last time. In the end I am going with one of my favorite boxing axioms… speed over power. I think Usyk’s southpaw style, with darting attacks and intelligent exits, will again frustrate Joshua and make him hesitate with punches instead of letting his hands go. It won’t be all one-way traffic (I have too much respect for Joshua’s work ethic), but Usyk maneuvers his way to another unquestioned victory in the 116-112 range.”

“So many questions heading into this rematch… Which fighter can improve and show more levels from the first bout? Who will have more rust after nearly a year out of the ring? How will the war in his homeland affect Usyk? How will Joshua look with his new trainer? I expect AJ to start fast and be aggressive with his offense early on. If Usyk can survive that early storm, he will settle into his rhythm by the mid rounds and coast late as Joshua tires. Usyk will get buzzed early but survive. Joshua will be hurt late. I like the Ukrainian by unanimous decision.”

“Expect an encore. There are changes, the biggest of which is in Anthony Joshua’s corner. Accomplished Robert Garcia, known for his work with champions at lighter weights, is there, presumably to resurrect Joshua’s aggressiveness. Maybe, Garcia eventually accomplishes the mission. But that job might take longer than one fight. Usyk, confident and increasingly comfortable at heavyweight, stands in the way, as tough a challenge as any. Garcia is new to the heavyweight division. Garcia and Joshua are new to each other. For Usyk, it’s a chance to do more of the same in a dominant victory.”

“Saying that Joshua can and probably will make some serious adjustments to compensate for his shortcomings in that first fight would not be a bad analysis. But even so, his limitations will be exposed once again. Usyk was and still is the wrong guy for Joshua, in every department, with the only possible exception of punching power. The best Joshua could eventually beat an unfocused Usyk, perhaps, but this is not going to be one of those nights.”


Anthony Joshua had his moments vs. Usyk. Photo by Mark Robinson/ Matchroom Boxing

“Nice guys come last, that’s the saying in boxing. Joshua is just that, a nice guy in my humble opinion. He should have changed coaches several years ago. However, this is where loyalty has got him – he’s an ex-champion, who will struggle to get his title back. His new team hasn’t had enough time to make the necessary adjustments to secure victory. He could have done with a couple of 10-rounders with the new coach in his corner to work on Joshua’s mental strength. Oh, did I mention it’s also harder to beat someone who’s already beaten you. Wrong move to go straight back in for the return unless this is your last fight. I’d like to see Joshua win, BUT Usyk has his number and I’m sure has more to offer in the return. I can’t see Joshua going the distance, it’s the southpaw Usyk for me, between 7-10 rounds, comfortably.”

“If Joshua wants to win, he needs to use his size to his advantage, try to bully Usyk and be more active with his punch output. I believe Usyk has his number. Usyk by unanimous decision.”

“I see Usyk winning a hard-fought close decision. I can see Joshua making some adjustments in the beginning, just like Wilder did in his third fight with Fury, but then resorting to his familiar ways and tactics. Usyk will have his hands full for 12 rounds, but he too will have to make necessary changes in strategy and close the show. I don’t see scores being unanimous.”

“It’s pretty obvious that in the last fight Joshua didn’t use the right tactics, trying to box Usyk when he should have tried to bully him. We saw how Chisora was able to impose his physique on Usyk and pressure him. A coach like Garcia should be able to push Joshua in the right direction, but there’s a limit to what a trainer can do. I don’t think it’s in Joshua’s nature to deliver the type of fight needed to defeat Usyk. Even if I see a tougher fight than the previous one, I still believe that Usyk will win a unanimous decision.”

“Gotta go with Usyk, but perhaps not as convincingly as in the first fight. It’s just a bad style matchup for Joshua. Then again, Usyk is a bad style matchup for just about anybody. Usyk by unanimous decision.”

“I think that Joshua will look better in this fight, but I just think that Usyk is the better fighter. With that being said, I think Usyk will win to the public, but I think it will be closer this time around and the outcome with be a draw. I think judges may give Joshua sympathy points.”

“Highly anticipated fight. Is Usyk the real deal at heavyweight? Did AJ have an off night? It’s a very important fight for both of their careers but more for AJ as back-to-back losses would really derail him. Did AJ learn anything with his new corner? I do see this second go around as a better fight than the first. I see a more aggressive Joshua, but he needs to stay focused and disciplined. In the first six rounds, Joshua outboxes Usyk and will be four rounds to two up. In Rounds 7-12, Usyk knowing he is behind will go searching for a KO and gets caught in the ninth and dropped. He gets up and continues to push for the KO. In the end AJ does it. Joshua by unanimous 12-round decision.”

“It is very interesting to me that both Usyk and Joshua have transformed their bodies in preparation for this fight. Usyk is bigger than last time and Joshua is smaller. Typically, bulking up rarely ends well for fighters. But Usyk is a different breed of person. Based on the training video I have seen, he has worked hard on his endurance, agility and speed. So, perhaps, the added weight won’t slow him down? Joshua needs to do a better job of imposing his size on Usyk because I don’t think he is the faster fighter. But perhaps dropping weight will make him faster. Usyk looks so strong. Will bulking up slow Usyk down or make him more effective against his bigger opponent? And, of course, Joshua could be faster this time and has one-punch KO power. It’s fascinating. Usyk looks like a beast. I was always picking him to win this one by decision. I am not going to change my pick. Oleksandr is a truly remarkable person. I have expected great things from him since the day I met him. I believe he is the best pound for pound fighter in the world. And I believe that, no matter how the fight goes, Usyk will find a way to win.”

“It’s easier to say that AJ simply has to use his size, physicality and power than I think it is for Joshua to enforce those tactics. If he can do so, then he can win. But AJ the thinker seems to get in his own way these days, and I’m not sure he really wants to revisit that dark place of the Klitschko fight to come out on top. Usyk knows he can hurt Joshua and he may push a little earlier this time to ask that question. Two things temper absolute confidence in Usyk; the emotional link to the ongoing conflict in his homeland being one and importantly, he was badly marked after the first fight despite limited success for AJ. Still, Usyk is strong willed and wonderfully talented. I think he might stop Joshua down the stretch.”

“I think Usyk’s style is always going to be a problem and I don’t think Joshua has enough time to change his style to make a difference and change the outcome. Same outcome as last time.”

“All credit to Anthony Joshua for jumping into the Usyk rematch. It shows courage and a top competitive spirit. He’s the bigger man, the stronger puncher and has the tools to win the rematch. I’m picking Usyk by decision. He’s the smarter fighter, the more disciplined boxer. Joshua was a terrific heavyweight. But what’s been shown the past five years is that he did not beat a great fighter in Klitschko when he won the title. He beat an old fighter. Usyk is not old. But he is great. If Joshua attacks Usyk early, but doesn’t stop him, his legitimate worry will be gassing out in the later rounds. Usyk won’t gas out. If Joshua plays chess, Usyk will outbox him. Joshua may think he’ll just bully his way to the win, but Usyk will remind him – pretty early – that it’s he who learned more from the first fight and that he’s a hard puzzle to solve.”

“I couldn’t see Usyk winning the first one, now I can’t see him losing the rematch. It will be interesting to see how the addition of Robert Garcia effects AJ. From the outside looking in, I feel that the Garcia addition certainly makes sense. He’s trained guys who buttered their bread by being very physical and won world championships (Brandon Rios and Marcos Maidana). I believe AJ has to bring a physical style in order to have a chance. I just feel like Usyk has grown comfortably into the weight and being physical against him now isn’t the same thing as having done it the first time around (which I feel he should have). A bigger Usyk with the same boxing skills is more of a handful this time around. In a fun fight, I have Usyk pulling away and possibly getting a late stoppage. AJ won’t go quietly though.”

“I think Joshua will be better this time with a new coach, but it will be hard. The edge is on Usyk’s side because he beat him the first time. I can’t tell who will win, but I think Joshua will be better because he didn’t show a lot in the first fight. He’ll probably start more aggressively and throw more punches. But then maybe he gasses out in the later rounds, so it’s dangerous. I think it will be an amazing fight. I would say Usyk [wins] because he beat him already, but you cannot write off Joshua.”

“If Joshua can turn it around it would be an incredible turnaround because Usyk won the first one quite convincingly. I think Usyk will have grown in confidence and there will be less fear going into the rematch, whereas Joshua will have a lot of doubts and questions to answers of himself. For that reason, I’ll probably go with Usyk. I think the situation in the Ukraine will inspire him. Sometimes carrying emotion into a fight can work against you. I could see Usyk getting a stoppage, he nearly had him finished in the last fight. I could also see him winning by points. Joshua will have learned from the first fight. Both fighters should be improved. I don’t stand strongly either way, I could see ways both guys could win. Emanuel [Steward] used to say, ‘The better boxer wins the rematch’ and you’d have to say it’s Usyk.”



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