If there is one thing that almost anyone with an interest in Boxing, the sport known as the sweet science can agree on, it is that one of the things that make it so appealing is the element of the unknown. The element that not only can a fight end at any given moment, but also the anticipation of a fight where there is a legitimate sense of not knowing what the outcome is likely to be amongst both fans and experts alike. One such meeting will take place on Saturday, September 25th at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England where two-time unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua will make the second defense of his second reign as champion against undefeated former Undisputed Cruiserweight world champion and current WBO number one Heavyweight contender Oleksandr Usyk in a bout scheduled for twelve rounds that can be seen globally on digital subscription-based sports streaming network DAZN and on Sky Sports Box Office Pay-Per-View in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The element of the unknown is something that the champion Joshua knows well. After all, it was not long ago that he as a then unbeaten world champion entered the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY in his United States debut in June 2019 in defending his title against Andy Ruiz, a fight that Ruiz took on short notice and ended up shocking many by getting up off the canvas to drop the champion a total of three times before stopping him in the seventh round to emerge as the new world champion. Although Joshua was able to produce a near flawless Boxing performance in their immediate rematch in December of that year to regain his unified crown, he did learn the lesson that indeed anything can happen and sometimes it is the element of the unknown that can upset any potential future plans.
Following a ninth round knockout in his first title defense after regaining the championship against IBF number one contender Kubrat Pulev in December of last year, Joshua now prepares to make a second mandatory title defense. This time, in the form of former Undisputed Cruiserweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk, who is the number one contender in the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Heavyweight ratings. Before we go further, it is appropriate to note that this fight came to fruition following the collapse of a hoped-for Undisputed world championship bout between Joshua and undefeated two-time Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury, current holder of the World Boxing Council (WBC) crown when Fury was ordered legally to defend his title against former WBC world champion Deontay Wilder in a contractually obligated third encounter between the two.
In some ways, this is a situation that is not unlike the one that Joshua found himself in prior to his first encounter with Andy Ruiz in the sense that there was a more lucrative fight in the future for him if he were able to get by Ruiz as at the time, the anticipation for an encounter between he and the then undefeated WBC world champion Wilder was extremely high and one might argue was one of the best fights that could have been made in the sport at that time. Of course, where the situation differs is that Ruiz had stepped into a fight on short notice when Joshua’s original opponent Jarrell Miller was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance as part of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency’s (VADA) randomized testing protocols.
While there are some similarities in the sense that Joshua could have a lucrative fight for the Undisputed World Heavyweight championship in his near future and in fact believed a deal was in place with Fury prior to the court ruling that led to the still upcoming Fury-Wilder III bout, the unified world champion has had considerably more time to prepare for Usyk than he did the first time he fought Ruiz.
As for Oleksandr Usyk, the former Undisputed Cruiserweight world champion has remained unbeaten in two bouts since moving up to the Heavyweight division. In those two outings, Usyk scored decision wins over longtime contender Chazz Witherspoon and former world title challenger Dereck Chisora in his last fight on Halloween night of last year. Despite being undefeated in eighteen professional fights, Usyk does have questions surrounding him in regard to not only his punching power, but also just how successful he might be overall as a Heavyweight. Questions that are not all that unlike those that have been asked of previous top Cruiserweight fighters that have ventured into the Heavyweight division seeking lucrative paydays and world championships.
Much like Joshua, Usyk is a former Olympic Gold medalist having won Gold as a Heavyweight in the 2012 London Olympics. The same Olympics that saw Joshua win Gold as a Super-Heavyweight. Though the distinction of the two weight classes on the amateur level of the sport is one that this observer has criticized as I feel it is not necessary, it does make one wonder why Usyk would choose to begin his professional career as a Cruiserweight. In his two Heavyweight bouts, Usyk was able to score those two wins over Witherspoon and Chisora, but one could make the argument that he was not able to hurt either fighter and in the case of Chisora, was given a much more difficult fight than some had anticipated. There are also some who feel that Chisora, who was able to put consistent pressure on Usyk throughout may have deserved the nod from the three official judges in what was a unanimous decision for Usyk.
While I felt Usyk did enough to win that fight, it is indisputable that it was not a dominant performance by the former Cruiserweight world champion and it created more questions than answers regarding how Usyk will fare at the elite level of the Heavyweight division. What he does have as an asset is he is a southpaw going against an orthodox fighter in Joshua. It is crucial however, that Usyk find a way to get the champion's respect early in this fight. Although Joshua looked like the “Knockout Artist” of old against Kubrat Pulev in his last fight, Usyk is highly skilled and crafty. Despite Joshua’s reputation for often scoring quick knockouts that he earned prior to his loss to Andy Ruiz in their first fight, there might be some who still question whether he is fully recovered from that loss even though he out boxed Ruiz convincingly in their rematch.
Although it may be logical to think that as the theoretically bigger man of the two that Joshua will look to impose his will on Usyk early, it will be interesting to see if he takes a more tactical approach. Usyk is a very skilled counter puncher and even though his style differs from that of Andy Ruiz, one should remember that Joshua was able to score a knockdown of Ruiz in the third round of their first fight, but as he went in to try to finish Ruiz after Ruiz had gotten up, he was overly aggressive and did not anticipate Ruiz’ hand speed and ability to counter punch. This resulted in Joshua getting caught and suffering his own knockdown in what ended up being one of the best rounds of Heavyweight Boxing in recent memory. While one might say that Ruiz has more punching power than Oleksandr Usyk, a skilled counter puncher still has the ability to catch an opponent with something that the opponent may not see coming if the counter attack is timed properly. So, even though much of the focus here will be on whether Usyk will be able to deal with someone of Joshua’s punching power, the possibility of Joshua getting caught due to being overly aggressive certainly exists. Another aspect that one should keep in mind as this fight approaches is Usyk has the ability to outwork his opponents as a fight progresses and part of the challenge he will present to the champion if the Joshua is not able to hurt him early is whether or not Joshua will be able to maintain a consistent offensive rhythm for all twelve rounds.
With much of the focus over the next few days and weeks within the sport not only focused on this fight, but also focused on the scheduled third encounter between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, which is scheduled for October 9th in Las Vegas, NV, there is a lot at stake for all four fighters as the five portions that make up the World Heavyweight championship are up for grabs in these two fights. If Anthony Joshua is looking beyond Oleksandr Usyk it could lead to disaster much in the same way it did against Andy Ruiz, when Ruiz was thrust into challenging him and not given much regard by some fans and experts. The difference here is, Oleksandr Usyk is not stepping in on short notice, but if he can deal with the champion’s power, does have the skillset to create problems for Joshua and if Joshua is not at his best, the ingredients for an upset are here.
There is nothing quite like the anticipation of a World Heavyweight championship fight as the questions and debates amongst fans and experts often intensify in the lead up to the two fighters entering the ring to do battle. While there is still time for such discussion, all that is left is for Anothy Joshua to try and defend his crown against a highly skilled and determined challenger looking to become a two-division world champion. We will see what happens when Joshua and Usyk square off on Saturday night.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Joshua vs. Usyk takes place on Saturday, September 25th at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England. The fight as well as it’s full undercard can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 1PM ET/ 10AM PT (U.S. Time) For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs, availability around the world, local start times in your area, and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the card can be seen on Sky Box Office Pay-Per-View for £24.95 beginning at 7PM (Local UK Time) For more information about Sky Box Office and to order please click the following link: www.sky.com/boxoffice/joshua-usyk.
*If there is any additional broadcast information, it will be made available here on The Boxing Truth® on Friday, September 24th when the official weigh-in report for this card is released.
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