By: Sean Crose
“I am a bit heavier than I was last time,” WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk has told Sky Sports. “I’m not sure the weight I’m going to be walking to the ring, we’re going to see it on Friday. I’m not a big forecaster. You’ll see Saturday night, I’ll just do my job, what I have to do.” Usyk might be tight lipped about the weight he’s gained in preparation for Saturday’s heavyweight title fight with Anthony Joshua, but speculation among boxing fans and media alike has run rampant, with some, like Amir Khan, saying the Ukranian has added up to thirty pounds of mass.
There is a kind of school of thought to be found online which argues that, since Usyk outboxed Joshua in their first match back in September of last year, the considerably bigger Joshua will fight more aggressively in this weekend’s rematch. The fact that Joshua has now teamed up with American trainer Robert Garcia, who is known for helping shape rugged fighters into success stories, has only added to that speculation. In preparation to face a more aggressive Joshua, then, team Usyk has decided to bulk up their own man, perhaps in the hope of his finishing Joshua off before the final bell on Saturday (something he nearly did in the closing moments of their first fight).
Joshua promoter and Matchroom honcho Eddie Hearn has made no secret of the fact he believes Joshua must turn his second battle with Usyk into a war of aggression. “The key to this fight in my opinion,” he told ES News, referring to Usyk, “is once this sixth round goes for the end of the round, this guy’s got to be out of there or he’s got to be damaged or in a place that he really wishes he would never want to go back into again.” To Hearn, Joshua needs to keep his man from ever getting comfortable in the ring this weekend. “You let this guy (Usyk) get into his rhythm,” Hearn added, “he could be unbeatable.”
If Usyk’s weight gain is to counter such a bold strategy on the part of team Joshua, there’s a possibility both fighters are going to attempt to end things early on Saturday, something that might make this intriguing rematch all the more interesting. “He looks like a full-on natural heavyweight,” Amir Khan recently told The Sun after personally seeing Usyk in camp. “He is big and looks very strong.” Naturally the same could be said of the towering Joshua, who always enters the ring in prime condition. On Saturday, the world will find out which man has employed the better strategy.
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