Ahead of this weekend’s rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua, our resident boxing expert James Allen has previewed the fight and explained why Usyk could get the job done inside the distance this time.
Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk face off for the second time this weekend in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for what’s being billed ‘Rage on the Red Sea’.
In the first fight, Usyk put on a boxing clinic at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The former cruiserweight world champion outboxed and outfought AJ and came close to a knockout before the final bell saved the Brit.
Can AJ find redemption and win back his belts, together with the Ring Magazine belt vacated this week by Tyson Fury? Or will Usyk stake out his pound-for-pound credentials with another masterclass in the sweet science? Read on for my breakdown of what to look out for during the fight.
Latest odds for Usyk v Joshua
The case for Joshua
In the first fight last September, Anthony Joshua got his tactics all wrong.
He chose to keep the fight at range and try to outbox a master boxer in Oleksandr Usyk. This cautious approach allowed the Ukrainian to have things his own way and use his superior footwork and timing to outclass Joshua.
Recognising his error, Joshua toured North America after the fight, spending time working with many of the continent’s top trainers, including Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s coach Eddy Reynoso.
Joshua ultimately appointed Robert Garcia after parting ways with long-time coach Robert McCracken. Garcia has trained 14 world champions, and is known to favour an aggressive come-forward style; something that will be key for Joshua if he is to beat Usyk this time around.
AJ has never been a pressure fighter, but he did fight with much more aggression earlier in his career, which changed after his knockout defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019. Garcia will hope to bring some of that aggression back into Joshua’s repertoire.
To win, Joshua will have to gamble on hunting Usyk down early, and you can get 6/1 (was 5/1) on Usyk to be knocked down in the first three rounds. Derek Chisora showed that Usyk can be bullied by bigger men at times, and Joshua needs to use his size and strength to impose himself on the Ukrainian.
Walking straight in on Usyk would be foolish, though, as Joshua would likely get picked off. So he needs to get behind his jab and use educated pressure to close the distance.
Joshua did hurt Usyk at times in the first fight, with straight right hands and right hooks to the body. So if he can sustain his attacks this time around, he could score a knockout victory and join an exclusive club of three-time heavyweight champions.
Back AJ to win by KO, TKO or DQ at 11/4 (was 5/2)
The case for Usyk
Oleksandr Usyk is a master boxer.
He won heavyweight gold at the London Olympics Games in 2012 (the same games where Joshua won gold up at Super-Heavyweight) and had an outstanding amateur record of 335 wins to only 15 defeats.
As a professional Usyk has been flawless, winning all 19 of his fights with 13 coming by knockout. The Ukrainian became undisputed cruiserweight champion after only 14 professional fights by defeating Murat Gassiev, before moving up to become a two-weight world champion.
Whilst there were doubts he was big enough for the weight, Usyk has proven himself at heavyweight and should only get better as he adjusts to the demands of the division.
Usyk’s strengths include phenomenal footwork and shot selection. He is a master at changing angles from his southpaw stance to get his lead foot outside his opponent’s, allowing him to find space to fire shots through his opponent’s guard – something he executed perfectly in his first fight with Joshua.
But perhaps Usyk’s greatest asset is his adaptability, or ring IQ. This was on show in his fights with Marius Briedis and Tony Bellew, both of whom had success early, before the Ukrainian made subtle changes to his tactics mid-fight to change the flow of the fight in his favour.
To retain his belts, Usyk needs to remember what worked in the first fight, when he used his footwork to move to the right of Joshua and avoid the Brit’s right hand, firing off his own combinations when the opportunity arose.
Usyk outclassed Joshua then, and although he may have to weather the storm early, as AJ is likely to come out fast, the champ should have enough to see him through the early rounds and take over towards the backend of the fight. Interestingly, Usyk looks to have bulked up substantially from the first fight, suggesting he may be looking for a knockout, and he did come close to stopping Joshua late on last September, before the bell rang early.
Expecting Usyk to prevail after seeing off an AJ storm? Back the champ to be knocked down and win at 5/1 (was 4/1).
With Joshua likely to put it all on the line early, I don’t anticipate this fight going the distance.
I think AJ will start fast and try to get Usyk out of there within the first five or six rounds. And with Joshua being the excellent finisher he is, and this being heavyweight boxing, that is a distinct possibility.
But I believe Usyk is a level above Joshua and should have enough to evade the early onslaught and take over in the latter half of the fight. So, at 9/1 with our Top Price Guarantee on Round Betting, Usyk to win in rounds 10-12 could be the way to go.
The post Usyk v Joshua 2 | AJ to taste defeat inside the distance? appeared first on William Hill News.