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Joshua vs Usyk hit the heavyweight dance floor, DAZN Saturday

Written By | Sep 25, 2021
Anthony Joshua and Oleksander Usyk weigh In ahead of their World Heavyweight Title clash Saturdayt at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Photo: Ian Walton Matchroom Boxing. Joshua vs Usyk

Anthony Joshua and Oleksander Usyk weigh In ahead of their World Heavyweight Title clash Saturdayt at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Photo: Ian Walton Matchroom Boxing.

SAN DIEGO, Calif., September 24, 2021 – After Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk both scored relatively easy victories in their respective fights to close out 2020, Usyk remained the WBO mandatory challenger to unified champion Joshua. At the time, Usyk and his manager Alexander Krassyuk said they would insist on the fight being made.

At the time, they were the only ones who expected it to happen. Joshua and Tyson Fury were headed for their long-awaited heavyweight unification matchup. But – it’s boxing. When a judge ruled in favor of Deontay Wilder getting a rematch with Fury, Joshua and Usyk turned to each other as dance partners.

Anthony Joshua and Oleksander Usyk will draw a sellout crowd in London Saturday. Photo: Mark Robinson, Matchroom Boxing. Joshua va Usyk

Anthony Joshua and Oleksander Usyk will draw a sellout crowd in London Saturday.
Photo: Mark Robinson, Matchroom Boxing.

Joshua of Great Britain (24-1, 22 KOs) and Usyk of Ukraine (18-0, 13 KOs) hit the dance floor Saturday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. It airs on DAZN in the US, free to subscribers and via PPV channels. The undercard kicks off at 1 pm ET/10 am PT, with the main event ring walk expected at approximately 5 pm ET/2 pm PT.

As the opening bell nears, interest is finally building in what seems close to a 50-50 fight with multiple scenarios how it might work out. A Joshua win puts him back on track toward a fight with Fury; an Usyk win throws the heavyweight division into tasty disarray.




Joshua: ‘Respect? Fear? It’s just a fight’

Anthony Joshua greets elated fans at the O2 Arena Friday at the weigh-in. Photo: Mark Robinson, Matchroom Boxing. Anthony Joshua with fans.

Anthony Joshua greets elated fans at the O2 Arena Friday at the weigh-in. Photo: Mark Robinson, Matchroom Boxing.

Joshua, the WBO/WBA/IBF champion who’s as big a sports superstar in the UK as any top ten NBA star in the US, will have 58,000 of the 60,000 fans in the seats cheering him on. In December, Joshua took down Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev with ease, scoring four knockdowns en route to a ninth-round knockout win. In this fight, patience paid off for the champion, picking up right where he left off after beating American Andy Ruiz Jr.

Joshua came in at 240 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in, 19 more than Usyk at 221.25 pounds. The relative size of the two men is a significant factor In the fight.

“Now, I should be able to do the 12 rounds easily because weight does make a difference,” said Joshua. “As long as you are loose, nimble. Loose and heavy, relaxed shots. I should be good.”

Joshua said he has no specific game plan for his 11th title defense or at least none he would share. “Just win. Because you never know what is going to happen when the first bell goes.”

Joshua said of Usyk, “Respect? Fear? It’s just a fight. I’m not someone who will be disrespectful unless someone is disrespectful to me. I respect the man. He has achieved phenomenal things.”

Usyk: ‘Nothing bothers me’

No one should mistake Oleksander Usyk’s fun-loving personality for his approach in the ring, where he is all business. Photo: Matchroom Boxing

Usyk, who, like Joshua, won an Olympic gold medal at the London 2012 games, will fight for just the third time as a heavyweight after he became the unified, undisputed cruiserweight division champion.

Usyk defeated Derek Chisora of Great Britain by unanimous decision. He admitted after the fight, he was lured into fighting Chisora’s fight, letting the bigger man crowd him early. But Chisora gassed out, and the more nimble and better conditioned Usyk took over, working first behind a jab at distance, then moving in with impressive hooks in the final rounds to win.

Usyk is a small heavyweight in the modern era, although he’s precisely the same height and weight as Muhammad Ali in his prime. The southpaw leverages one of boxing’s best minds in the ring, an incredible IQ along with the same skill of his countryman and stablemate Vasiliy Lomachenko. He can get his opponents to waste their effort in early rounds to little effect. As with this Chisora fight, he then takes over and wears them down completely.

Oleksander Usyk weighed in at 221 pounds, 19 pounds lighter than Anthony Joshua. Photo: Ian Walton Matchroom Boxing.
Oleksander Usyk.

How will Usyk approach Joshua? He played his cards close.

“He is going to be watching right now, how can I tell? I’m not going to tell … Can he do something different instead of boxing with me? Everything he wants, he can do it. I’m going to do what I’m going to do.”



Usyk brushed off concerns about the size difference. “It’s all like (people talk) about it. Who is bigger, who is smaller. Nothing bothers me.”

Prediction:  Home field advantage holds

As long as Anthony Joshua avoids mistakes and his conditioning holds up, he will be hard to beat on home turf.
Photo: Eddie Keogh, Matchroom Boxing.
Anthony Joshua on the scales.

Criticizing Usyk’s relative lack of power isn’t useful. All heavyweights are big, and all heavyweights can punch. Smart heavyweights like Joshua and Usyk aren’t easy to tee up to be hit with flush power punches. Both will begin the fight by boxing, working at distance. Joshua needs to work the jab and size up what Usyk offers. Usyk needs to lean on his movement and stamina to try and wear Joshua out and slow him down.

If Joshua can make it a tactical fight, his effort will get every consideration from the judges. They will hear the fans roar and see Joshua’s excellent form in the ring. It will be difficult for Usyk to win this type of fight on the cards.

It’s not impossible. Usyk has all the skills to do it. If his southpaw approach ties Joshua up and forces him to make mistakes, Usykl will be ready to pounce. Joshua can be knocked down. Usyk has never been knocked down as a pro.

An Usyk win would derail plans for the all British showdown between Joshua and Fury as early as the end of the year, and everyone involved, including the officials, know it.

While we love the theater of the unexpected and admire Usyk’s approach both to boxing and his “what, me worry?” philosophy of life, he’s the underdog for a reason. We see the fight going to Joshua by unanimous decision.

Undercard: Lawrence Okolie, Callum Smith, featured  

Lawrence Okolie (left) and Dilan Prasovic fight for the WBO Cruiserweight World Title in the co-main event. Photo: Eddie Keogh, Matchroom Boxing

Cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie of London (15-0, 12 KOs) makes his second straight appearance on a Joshua undercard. He is an overwhelming favorite to defeat Dilan Prasovic of Montenegro and win the WBO World Cruiserweight Title. At 6-foot-5, the 29-year-old Okolie is destined for the heavyweight division. Until then, he’s content to run the cruiserweight division table.

Light heavyweight Callum Smith of Liverpool (27-1, 19 KOs) looks to get back in the win column after a tough loss to Canelo Alvarez. He fights Lenin Castillo of the Dominican Republic (21-3-1, 16 KOs). Castillo’s losses are to Dmitry Bivol, Marcus Browne, and undefeated Joseph Williams.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on social media at @PRProSanDiego.

 

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.  

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award-winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.