Anthony Joshua has been here before.
On December 7th, 2019, the superstar adonis of British heavyweight boxing had to face the only man who had ever bested him as a professional. In the 6 month lead-up, Joshua made adjustments to his physique, his training, and dramatically altered his fight style. Rather than step forward methodically behind a steady rhythm of power-punching combinations, Joshua picked his punches carefully while skittishly stepping around the perimeter of the ring, his over-overweight opponent Andy Ruiz left plodding in the center. While Joshua left no doubt as to the winner of that contest, observers couldn’t help but notice something lacking. Joshua had survived Ruiz the second time around, but why couldn’t he conquer him with the confidence he had shown his whole career?
In the lead up to this Saturday night, Joshua has had to adjust his tactics, training, and likely his style once more. Only this time, it will be different. Oleskandr Usyk was no underdog that Joshua had taken lightly. Usyk did not stun an over-eager Joshua mid-exchange, and he will not come into this rematch ill-prepared. Olksandr Usyk is a man who proved himself Joshua’s superior in the squared circle in the plainest way possible, outmaneuvring him with his feet and out-timing him with his hands. Joshua’s moments of success were only fleeting – though they may be enough for trainer Robert Garcia to mold into a winning strategy.
But Usyk seems to have made his own adjustments, showing a burlier physique; no longer is he the cruiserweight newcomer trying to find his footing against the giants. And when it comes to questions of mentality, one can only imagine that witnessing the savage suffering of the Ukrainian people firsthand has only strengthened his resolve to deliver his people a resounding victory. Will the pressure of this legacy-defining fight give Joshua the impetus to rise above his stylistic and psychological limitations? Or will Usyk simply build on the success he found in the first fight? Let’s read what our forum posters think:
AJ feints better, doesn’t get drawn in to playing games with Usyk’s pawing lead hand, and ends up coming through with a stoppage.
AJ attacks and does well until the mid-point. Then he tires and loses the 2nd half close. Usyk gets the decision; it’s disputed by AJ’s camp and a few pundits, but most watching will agree with the decision.
AJ tries to display more venom, but Usyk takes the momentum, and only gets better, in Jeddah.
Usyk comes into this fight more confident, with the vastly superior skill set and the knowledge that he can hurt AJ. He picks up where he left off in round 12 and stops AJ within 7 rounds.
Same result again, except Usyk gets to him earlier this time around. Usyk by KO in the 2nd half of the fight
After a cagey start, AJ goes full roadman: charges in, gets clipped, then retreats back into his shell. Usyk by comfortable UD.
I see AJ coming with a better gameplan, posing different problems, looking better and being competitve for the first 4-6 rounds. Usyk will eventually solve them though, and will stop a tiring AJ between 8 and 10.
I suspect the first round or two or will be cagey. For all the talk of Joshua needing to be more assertive – and he definetly does have to be – I’m not sure he knows how to do it from the off. He doesn’t have the trust in his chin to go in to seek and destroy. I just can’t see past Usyk though. For all the things you look at for Joshua to win, I’m not sure when it comes down to it outside landing that one big shot that changes the fight he can do it. Usyk too quick, too smart and skilled. He will make Joshua confused and hesitant at some point and stop him mid to late I think.
Joshua comes steaming in for the first four before gassing. Usyk ramps it up a bit, some great mid-round action between the two exchanging heavy blows, but AJ caves first, going down in 9th and being stopped in the 10th.
Joshua, big and strong, takes the centre of the ring and dominates the early part of the fight, slowing Usyk with punishing body shots. Rounds 5-6 are more even before Joshua catches Usyk with a massive right, stopping him in round 8. Trilogy awaits.
AJ establishes the outside foot more often and takes an early lead. Uysk adjusts in the middle rounds and starts to pull away as AJ tires. About round 10 Uysk takes the lead on the scorecards and holds onto it. Good fight, 116-112/115-113 type for Uysk.
I’m hopeful it’s a minor classic, Usyk totally outboxing AJ but gets dropped by a body shot in middle rounds, then wins more before AJ catches and stops him in round 11.
Usyk to pick up where he left off. Dominance for the first 6 rounds and a stoppage before the 9th as AJ tires out.
Usyk opens up by looking at AJ for any changes, but still looks to establish early dominance, mainly through foot position, jab, and counter straight lefts. AJ is not gung ho, but is more aggressive, seeking to move forwards more, covering himself by keeping his hands high. He jabs less, but jabs to the body more, and takes more risks punching with Usyk, and trying to catch him with the left hook as he moves out. Usyk wins more rounds and is mainly in charge, but takes some big shots and damage, however never enough at any one time to really count Joshua starts to tire, and rather than fade out again gambles on a bum rush. Usyk is too smart and fresh, and stops him on the ropes soon after.
Usyk wins via stoppage somewhere between 7-10. AJ will realize he cannot outbox Usyk to a points decision so he’ll push harder for the KO himself, playing into Usyk’s hands and opening himself up to be picked off.
Joshua opens up aggressively but flatters to deceive, Uysk slipping to the outside and landing variation of the back hand (looping/shovel/straight) and puts Joshua straight back into his box after 2/3 rounds. It’s then a rinse and repeat of the first fight before Joshua gets stopped in the 10th due to sheer exhaustion.
I think AJ will perform better but come up short. He won 3 rounds last time just about, and I think he’ll win 4/5 rounds this time and will get Usyk’s attention early, but Usyk will get a deserved win in a slightly closer fight than last time.
AJ comes out slightly more aggressive and has some early success whilst taking a few hard shots, by the fifth round AJ starts to gas. Usyk will stop him in rounds 6-8
Joshua will be aggressive and try to target the body repeatedly. He’ll have some success, but him taking more chances means Usyk will have more openings to take advantage of. Usyk will land a big left as Joshua comes forward, probably in the first 3, badly hurting Joshua and then it will be downhill until AJ gets stopped on the ropes at about the midway point.
AJ by KO. He learned his lesson from trying to box the better boxer last time and walks him down, makes it a fight, and out bangs him fairly easily. AJ in 5.
It’s gonna be a cagey first few rounds until Usyk starts to use angles and get inside on AJ, roughing him up and landing combinations. AJ will have his moments for sure, but I’m looking at the same fight as the first one with Usyk showing more skill when it matters most.
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For a more technical analysis of how Joshua might win, check out our breakdown: