By: Sean Crose
One of the biggest – if not the single biggest – matchups of the year is set to go down Saturday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The undefeated, 19-0 Oleksandr Usyk will be defending his WBA, IBF, and WBO titles against the man he won them from, the 24-2 Anthony Joshua, in a scheduled 12 round heavyweight affair. With three of the four major divisional title belts on the line (only the WBC belt is not at stake), the reasons why this fight is relevant are self-explanatory. Should England’s Joshua win back his belts, he will be one of the few heavyweights in history to have become a three time world titlist. A victory by Ukraine’s Usyk, on the other hand, may well mean he’s the man to beat in the division.
Both fighters met last September on British soil, where they fought a full 12 rounds at Hotspur Stadium. Usyk ended up walking away with the win and the belts thanks to the fact that he outboxed his man. Yet there was more to his victory than just skill. In the final moments of the final round, Usyk appeared to be on the verge of taking his man out before the bell. It was clearly not Joshua’s finest moment in the ring. Still, it’s worth noting that Joshua has been in this position before.
Back in 2019 the towering Brit was stunned in his American debut when he was stopped by last minute replacement Andy Ruiz. Rather than slip into the ether, Joshua changed his game plan for the rematch. The second fight with Ruiz, which went down in Saudi Arabia, saw Joshua employ an effective defense-minded strategy which led to him easily outboxing his man. It will be hard for Joshua to outbox Usyk, however, as the 6’3 titlist is nothing if not a master chess player in the ring.
Not surprisingly then, many are expecting the 6’6 Joshua to be far more aggressive on Saturday than he was in his first match against Usyk. With all but 2 of his 24 wins coming by knockout, there’s no doubt that Joshua can hit like a cannon. Will he be able to land effectively without taking serious damage from Usyk? That may end up being the big question of the fight. Saturday’s Usyk-Joshua 2 card will be broadcast live in the United States on DAZN starting at 12 noon eastern time.
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