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PICK EM FRIDAY | ANTHONY JOSHUA VS. OLEKSANDR USYK!

Paul J Daley – Joshua via Controversial DEC The comparison from Olympic hero to the divisional ruler is an obvious one to be made between Joshua and Usyk, both have stood at the top of an Olympic podium, both have shown dominance in their climb to the top of their respective divisions but the difference being that one as done so in the sport’s top division whilst the other as done so in weight class one below that of the man he is looking to dethrone. Here is where the issue lies in predicting a winner. If this was a matchup of equally natural size then my answer would be resounding in picking Usyk, there is no getting away from the fact he is the better boxer based on everything I have seen in the journey of both men, BUT on this occasion, this isn’t a pick you can make on that basis, the natural size of Joshua is a big factor.

The above statement is true, but it isn’t to say that Joshua is anyways a slouch in that department, in his rematch with Andy Ruiz he showed a more complete version than the one he gave previous, possibly the most polished version of himself to date, a darn sight more composed whilst it was good to see him employ an element of caution in returning fire in his decision over the American. 

An attribute that continues to impress me, ever since his amateur days he has continued to evolve into a fighter who I still believe has room to improve further. 

Sure, his weaknesses are there for all to see, the stamina issues, the chin up in the air when trading or the sheer fact that he is uncomfortable working on the back foot but more often than not, his strength, power and that beautiful scathing uppercut as bridged the gap (Ruiz 1st encounter not included). Will it ring true on Saturday night? 

Like a thorn in the side of the champion, Oleksandr Usyk awaited his chance, glaring from afar at a man he believes to be ready for the picking, It is no secret of his desire to face Joshua it’s been his intention since his Cruiserweight days. He will get his wish this coming weekend.

Like I already stated earlier in the segment, Usyk is the better boxer of the two men, to that, there is little doubt, the way in which he dissects opposition is akin to the precision a surgeon uses a scalpel, a trait that has been drilled into him from one of the best amateur programs on the planet.

He does however show weaknesses, an unpopular opinion I know but we have seen Bellew, Chisora, Gassiev and Breidis have land substantial shots on the Ukrainian, a big concern when facing one of the biggest punchers in the heavyweight division, also to note is his eagerness to return fire when caught with a clean shot which is a bad trait that can allow openings in his defence to exploit.

When predicting a winner, I may sound like a broken record in saying IF this happens then This will happen so I will forego you that monotony, Instead I will keep it simple whilst paying homage to the old saying ‘a Good BIG Man always beats a Good Smaller Man’ this theory proved wrong in the past as I feel it may be on Saturday night. My pick is that Joshua comes through a gruelling encounter with his hand raised, but in so doing the feeling of controversy ringing true with the overruling feeling of many on a cold night in north London that the visitor should have been the one with his hand raised.

Tre Berry – Usyk DECOn Saturday, we get to witness a historic event at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, as unbeaten Cruiserweight legend and former Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion of the World Oleksandr Usyk (18-0-0, 13KO) will once again go into his opponent’s backyard in a hostile environment, to try to live out his boyhood dream of becoming Heavyweight Champion. Skilled, charismatic fellow Olympic Gold-Medalist Anthony Joshua (24-1-0, 22KO) brings the WBA, WBO and IBF Heavyweight World Titles to the table, and is someone who has defeated everyone that he has faced thus far – of course avenging his only loss against Andy Ruiz Jr. in a dominant redux performance, and is hellbent on getting the respect he feels that he deserves.

Clearly, Joshua is the much bigger man by trait, as he fits today’s over-massed Heavyweight division perfectly, and is one who won Super-Heavyweight Gold-Medal in 2012. In the same Olympics, Usyk won his Gold-Medal in the traditional Heavyweight division, so of course, there will be a natural difference in height, weight, and punching power. Usyk has spent countless time preserving his body and beefing up properly, adding on approximately 25 lbs. of muscle, and what I’ve been able to gather by observation, is that he has done so, without compromising his speed, or his stamina, which are crucial components for him regarding this particular fight.

Joshua is a dynamite puncher, one who does his greatest work from mid-range and can bounce outside, utilizing space to extend his long arms to get full force on the punches. He has a fantastic jab – one that he forgets to use at times. He will need that jab, as well as his classic uppercut on the inside in order to win this fight.

How do I see this fight going strategically? I see Joshua in the first 2 rounds applying serious pressure on the front foot to try to test and bully the smaller fighter, but Usyk will endure in the first 6 minutes. For the rest of the fight to follow, there will be a role reversal, with Joshua backing out, utilizing space and range, trying to keep Usyk at the end of his jab, and looking to split the guard with the uppercut if Olek gets too close to him, as Usyk will most likely fight the rest of the fight similar to how he walked down Bellew.

The southpaw Usyk will target the body often with the jab underneath Joshua’s left elbow, and once he establishes that, will try to bring the sweeping right hook over the top, and utilize angles for the 4-5 punch combinations up top. Joshua isn’t the best of counterpunchers, so if he allows Usyk to get comfortable, it could possibly be a long night. I see Joshua hurting Usyk twice in the bout, forcing him to hold on in those instances, but I also see Olek rebounding, to use his superior boxing acumen and overall skill level, to win the most difficult fight of his life with close scoring……I foresee a 116-112 type of fight, with the gruelling aspect, in Oleksandr Usyk’s favour, with scorecards looking more like 115-113, 115-114 due to the stock associated with Joshua’s star power. All in all, I see the Ukrainian fighter Oleksandr Usyk making some history, and cementing himself as a true first-ballot Hall of Famer by becoming a Unified Heavyweight Champion, hoisting 3 of the 5 belts.

Jamie Bourne (BoxeoBourne) – Joshua DEC – I have followed Oleksandr Usyk since the 2011 World Amateur World Championships, and I am sad to admit that this is the first time that I have ever backed against him. However, not because of his uninspiring heavyweight campaign to date… or the concerns about the added bulk… or even Father Time potentially catching up with him.

I am picking Antony Joshua because the cynic in me worries that the Ukrainian might have to go a step further than the Brit in order to win rounds. I am concerned that the superior skills and mental pressure of Usyk will be overlooked, in favour of the sheer power and ring presence of Joshua. On home soil with 70,000 fans willing him on, I don’t see AJ conceding close rounds.

I liken this matchup to Teofimo Lopez vs Vasyl Lomachenko. Teofimo established that he didn’t necessarily need to make Lomachenko feel his power, he just had to make him afraid of it. Joshua, with his superior size, ramrod jab, and explosive speed, will be able to keep Usyk honest for enough time to get the fight in the bag before the challenger even gets going, in my opinion.

I see this ending 7-5 either way or 6-6 even. However, with home advantage and a strong start from the champion, Joshua will somewhat controversially get the nod from two of the judges. It won’t be a robbery by any means but a large portion will have Usyk winning.

For my tactical breakdown & insights 👇

Michael Joyce (MichaelJoyce10) – Joshua DEC – Personally, I have not been this torn on the outcome of a fight for a very long time, I can make a genuine case for several outcomes, in what promises to be a special occasion on Saturday night.

Usyk, no stranger to going into enemy territory, will have to be brave during the fight, despite the risk of power punches coming back from the opposite direction. In order to have success, I think he will need to put AJ on the back foot, make him think, push the pace, and break him down before heading into the later rounds. The Ukrainian simply cannot afford to start slowly, something which he has been found guilty of in the past.

The champion, Joshua, has shown in recent times that he is more than just a power puncher. He has shown he can box effectively at mid-to-long range, utilising his jab before cleaning opponents out. One of the biggest weapons AJ possesses is the uppercut and this could become a factor as Usyk targets the body. The rumors of a leaner Joshua suggests he is prepared to go the full twelve rounds if required.

I can’t help but feel the fight will go the distance, with Joshua being announced the winner. Would it surprise me if Usyk won? No, absolutely not. But he will have to win 8 or 9 clear rounds on the cards and based on previous heavyweight form, it is hard to see that happening, so I will take AJ points in a competitive fight.

Dean Berks – Joshua TKO – This fight is just as dangerous for Joshua as the Fury fight. Although lacking the size of Fury, Usyk’s ring generalship could potentially give Joshua fits. There’s no doubting that he possesses the better skills of the two, but Joshua is no slouch and certainly has the advantage in power. Footage of training has shown Joshua working on his left hook, the textbook counter along with the straight right against a southpaw, whilst Usyk has just been doing his thing. Joshua has also appeared to have lost even further muscle mass, a surprising move considering his size and strength would be viewed as big advantages.

At 34, this could well be now or never for Usyk. So how will it unfold? This really could go either way. Usyk is more than capable of outboxing Joshua and taking a points decision, while Joshua could produce a stunning knockout out of nowhere.

I think it will sit somewhere in the middle. Despite his ability, Usyk can be caught. Breidis pushed him all the way, connecting with right hands to both head and body throughout, as did Bellew. Joshua is not the hardest to hit but has imposed himself to come through difficult moments, Ruiz 1 aside, to emerge victoriously. He probably will again on Saturday.

If I was in his camp I would employ him to jump on Usyk early, letting him feel his power and forcing the Ukrainian to re-adjust his strategy. But that approach is highly unlikely as he usually likes to break down his opponent. I’ve gone backwards and forwards over this many times, making a case for each man, and still cannot conclusively pick a winner. However, I’m not one for sitting on the fence. I’m going for Joshua to come from behind and score a stoppage anytime after round 8.

Steve Haigh – Joshua TKO 11 – Sensible money would have to go on Joshua given his size and power advantages along with the fact that Usyk hasn’t really shone in his few outings at heavyweight but having said that it’s quite possible he’s been holding something back since moving up

The rewards are huge and I expect a stellar effort from him this weekend. He will be the underdog coming into the ring but if he can use the southpaw element and speed to his advantage he is definitely in with a shout of winning on points albeit that he is the away fighter and the B side plus I don’t see the judges going out of their way to be generous

Prediction

I can see Usyk going into the final third of the fight having frustrated his opponent using his trademark footwork and smart counter-attacks We have seen him stand in front of Joe Joyce so I’m not convinced his chin is of concern unless he gets caught cold or takes a series of unanswered blows. He will have to be busy to keep Joshua honest and smart with his output but again given his boxing intellect I’m not concerned about this, I do however think that because he is carrying the extra weight it could be the case of his tank running low and around the 10th or 11th rounds Joshua finally being able to apply the pressure and grind out a late stoppage after probably being behind on points. Joshua will land his shots throughout but I think Usyk with ride the sting out of the majority until late on

I don’t see Usyk being counted out more so a case of the referee stepping in between the two fighters after unanswered punches

Rob Day – Joshua KO 9 – It’s a superb match-up. Two of the best fighters in the World, going head-to-head. Usyk was phenomenal at Cruiserweight. He brings a skilful style and unbelievable will to win. Anthony Joshua is going to have his hands full – on a mental and physical level. There is pressure on Joshua to win big and look good but the main thing here is to get the win. Usyk hasn’t looked great, at Heavyweight, but has had the time to grow into the higher weight. He’s still the smaller man but has magnificent movement. I think Joshua needs to be lean rather than big, he needs to dominate with the jab. Usyk will face a man that brings more than Dereck Chisora. Usyk can use his movement and raid, knowing his stamina is there. Can he have Anthony tired by the later rounds?

I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled to see how this fight plays out. A lot of factors are unknown. How hard does either fighter push the action? The answer to that question?, is something we will only know on Saturday. Anthony Joshua wants to be seen, as the dominant Heavyweight of this era. On Saturday, he needs to show everyone. If he doesn’t, he is at high risk of losing. It’s a fascinating fight. I edge towards Joshua but am intrigued to see how the battle unfolds. It’s the best fighting the best and, as a boxing fan, that is all I want.

Ciaran Owen Thomas – Joshua TKO – Hold your horses because this could potentially be the most intriguing and interesting fight of the year in the glamour division of boxing!

I think the former cruiserweight king Usyk can and will cause problems for AJ and particularly early doors with his movement and his southpaw threat. Think Usyk will start well and possibly win rounds early doors in a cagey start to the fight as AJ looks at him and susses him out. Don’t forget the improvement in Joshua’s boxing ability though since Angel Fernandez has joined the team that was so evident in the Ruiz II fight and in elements of the Pulev fight. This coinciding with the destructive power, spite and size of the heavyweight world champion is what I think will be the key factor to Joshua catching Usyk, and picking up a KO/TKO win in the later rounds of the fight.. possibly between 8-10.

I think we are in for a cracking fight with the intrigue and excitement to make any boxing fans weekend!

Summing it up I think the natural size and power will be too much and AJ will win by KO/TKO and hopefully then providing Fury comes through the Wilder trilogy we get to see the biggest fight in boxing happen next year!

Chris Glover – Joshua PTS – Joshua Usyk is an intriguing battle. More so than one would suggest. Does Usyk have a higher boxing IQ? For me, yes. Does size matter when it comes to heavyweight boxing? Yes.

This fight goes the distance. Usyk is far too clever to get into a slugging match with AJ. However, this fight is also in London, meaning he’s not getting a decision.

Ciaran Gibbons – Joshua TKO Joshua v Usyk, an intriguing contest with many different tangibles that could affect the result. As a big strong cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk had the power to go with crafty smooth skills and brilliant boxing brain. But as a heavyweight he is relying a lot more on his boxing skills with his power being reduced as he faces much bigger men.

Anthony Joshua in his last contest against Kubrat Pulev fought with controlled aggression and I think he will need to do the same against Usyk. Joshua can’t afford to be inactive during periods of the fight staying on the outside and letting Usyk pick up points with eye catching shots. Key for Joshua is to keep pressure on Usyk. Keep him moving, working and never letting him settle into a rhythm.
Trainer Robert McCracken will keep AJ on track during a few tricky moments and I think AJ gets the win in last third of the fight and stops an exhausted Usyk .

I've been in the boxing industry for over 16 years but been a fan for almost double that figure. I'm the proud owner of TopClassBoxing which continues to go from strength to strength as we strive to give fight fans a voice to be heard amongst the community. I've also had several articles published by reputable magazines and you can usually catch me around ringside.

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