In a year where so many major fights have fallen through, WBA Super, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s showdown with Ukrainian wonder Oleksandr Usyk is finally an event for boxing fans to savour.
The unbeaten Usyk arguably presents Joshua’s stiffest test yet in Saturday’s clash at the magnificent Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London. A supreme craftsman, highly-decorated professional and amateur, Usyk’s speed and sublime brand of boxing should pose Joshua serious issues. Whereas the champion will hope his explosiveness, size and physicality will tip the fight in his favour.
Victory for Joshua could pave the way for that delayed undisputed heavyweight title fight against WBC king Tyson Fury in 2022, defeat to an immediate rematch with Usyk. So much is at stake.
So who prevails? Boxing Social’s intrepid band of writers and fortune tellers attempt to predict the outcome.
Before the fight was made, long before it was a thought, I believed Usyk was all wrong for Joshua. His performances at heavyweight haven’t convinced doubters but I wonder how much we have seen of Usyk. Strikes me as a man who won’t exert himself against a Witherspoon or a Chisora if he doesn’t have to. Usyk knows this a different ball game. His footwork and movement are going to cause Joshua problems, no doubt. But it’s what he does with his fists that is going to matter. Joshua is going to get tagged from angles he hasn’t been before but AJ is an improving boxer who has never believed he is the finished article. I worry about AJ’s discipline after what could be a frustrating night. Indiscipline leads to mistakes and counters. I’m not changing my mind now. Usyk by unanimous decision. – Shaun Brown.
Two judges had Usyk’s fight against Chisora far closer than most believed it to be. This does not bode well for the Ukrainian, if he’s not getting enough credit on the scorecards against Chisora (who has never won a major fight on points), what chance does he have against British boxing’s golden boy? I can see the fight itself being cagey and competitive with AJ winning a unanimous decision. – John A. MacDonald.
I think Usyk will give Joshua the runaround for most of the fight this Saturday, but that doesn’t mean I think he’ll win. Joshua will be forced to think, constantly adapt and try to readopt the role of the aggressor. Usyk is a sublime boxer, and his performance against Murat Gassiev – although years in the rear view – was a thing of beauty. I just think that the Brit will be clever enough to evade a crushing knockout blow, and that Usyk is definitely too slick to be battered under a barrage of heavy punches. I’ll stick with my prediction of Joshua by decision. It will have nothing to do with the judges. Honestly. – Craig Scott.
The Usyk of two or three years ago had the skills, heart and technique to give Joshua fits. However, the Ukrainian hasn’t been very active since cleaning out cruiserweight and has also suffered from some concerning injuries. He looks to have bulked up for this assignment and that – coupled with the aforementioned injuries and inactivity – will hamper his chances of success here. Nevertheless, I expect Usyk to have plenty of success against Joshua, who is always well prepared but lacks flexibility. I think Usyk will land enough to make a solid argument that he deserved his hand raised at the end of 12 relatively uneventful rounds. However, the judges will favour AJ’s more obvious output and give him the nod. – Luke G. Williams.
I was very excited for this fight after Usyk cleaned out the cruiserweight division. However, my enthusiasm has receded. Usyk has been stop and start at heavy, not helped by the injuries. And he’s never really looked comfortable with the additional weight. Joshua is Joshua, you know what you’ll get. All that being considered, I expect a cagey and largely uneventful fight with a Joshua points win. I expect a few grumbles with the scorecards, as well. – James Oddy.
Some observers are perhaps reading too much into Usyk’s marking time fights against Witherspoon and Chisora. We will see a much sharper Usyk here with Anatoly ‘Papa’ Lomachenko back pulling the strings in the corner. I think Usyk will do enough to win the fight through his speed, footwork and superior boxing acumen, but drop a decision nonetheless. Home advantage is crucial here. Joshua on points. – Mark Butcher.
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.