This weekend, World Heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua, puts his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts on the line against arguably his toughest opponent yet, unbeaten Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk.
It is the first of two bouts over the next month or so that will shape the future of the heavyweight division. In October, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder clash for the third time with Fury’s WBC belt on the line.
If Fury and Joshua manage to retain their titles, then a unification bout between the two Brits in early 2022 looks very likely. However, if one, or both, should lose their titles then that would shake up the division and with the likes of Joe Joyce, Joseph Parker and Dillian Whyte also now brought into the equation.
Let’s take a look at the fight a bit more closely now, with all odds provided by BetMGM Sportsbook.
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Joshua V Usyk Preview
Joshua V Usyk heads Saturday’s big card of boxing in London, from the Tottenham Hotspur stadium that also sees the WBO World Cruiserweight belt held by Lawrence Okolie up for grabs against Montenegro’s Dilan Prasovic, who has not been beaten in his 15 professional fights.
We also see the return of Liverpudlian Callum Smith after his points defeat to Canelo Alvarez in December last year as he faces Dominican boxer Lenin Castillo in what should be a relatively straightforward comeback fight for the former Super Middleweight world champion.
However, it is the Joshua v Usyk fight that has caught most people’s attention and it is not difficult to see why.
The Champion suffered his first career defeat at the hands of John Ruiz Jr. back in June 2019 in what was a huge shock, but six months later, he avenged that defeat with a win on points against the same opponent.
Joshua was then back in action a year later against Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, whom he defeated with a ninth round knockout.
However, there are many feel that Joshua’s challenger on Saturday is going to be his most difficult opponent yet.
Usyk Makes The Step Up From Cruiserweight Dominance
Like the Champion, Oleksandr Usyk was a gold medal winner at the 2012 London Olympic games and after a stellar amateur career, he turned professional in 2013 and in his tenth fight won the WBO Cruiserweight World title and in his 15th fight, he had unified the entire division with a win over Murat Gassiev.
A win over Tony Bellew followed before Usyk decided to step up in weight class to the more lucrative and competitive heavyweight division.
He has since defeated Chass Witherspoon, who retired in his corner after seven rounds, and Dereck Chisora by a unanimous decision ahead of his fight with Joshua.
Rated by many as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world today and a master ring technician, Usyk certainly has the skills to cause Joshua problems, however he will likely be giving away plenty of height, reach and power to the Champion and it is these differences which seems to have made him the underdog in the fight.
BetMGM have Joshua as the 4/9 favorite to win the bout, with Usyk 2/1 and it is 20/1 for the draw. Those odds are far more balanced than in Joshua’s home of the UK, where he is an even stronger favorite to win the bout.
Given his physique ahead of the fight, it does look like Anthony Joshua has slimmed down a little, perhaps to match the speed of Usyk, who will likely be the much lighter fighter. However, I am not sure that is a wise move given Usyk’s technical skills and ability.
If Joshua wants a boxing match, then I think he is going to struggle against the Ukrainian who along with the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Naoya Inoue and Terence Crawford is rated as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world today.
However, Usyk has had issues putting away fighters in recent fights with just one knockout in his last five fights and it remains to be seen whether he has the power to hurt Joshua.
This is an intriguing battle and one that is well worth watching if you can tune in, but my gut feeling here is that Joshua may just be too big and too strong for Usyk and if he can land cleanly once, then that may be enough for him to retain his titles.