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Preview: Usyk vs Joshua 2

By Owen McKendry

Watch The Fight Live On Sky Sports:

Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua will dance in the desert as they once again battle for the unified heavyweight world championships. The fight will be held at the 62,000-seater King Abdullah Sports City stadium to determine repeat or revenge.

Joshua will be looking to claim his titles back for a second time in Saudi Arabia after he previously beat Mexican foe Andy Ruiz JR. by unanimous decision in the country back in 2019. Despite Usyk being champion, ‘AJ’ is once again billed as the ‘A side’ as he looks to become 3x champion of the world.

The first fight between the pair took place at Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium, with over 70,000 in attendance watching a masterclass in footwork and hit and don’t get hit from Usyk. The Ukrainian maverick proved elusive to AJ’s powerful combinations and proved to the world he was the real deal at heavyweight, emulating his cruiserweight success and domination.

With Joshua choosing to opt for the immediate rematch rather than a tune-up fight, and with Usyk taking the incredibly brave decision to return to his native Ukraine and fight against the Russian invasion, it will be almost a year since both fighters have stepped through the ropes.

AJ will be heading into the rematch looking to once again silence the doubters and reclaim what he believes is rightfully his in the heavyweight world titles. After the first Andy Ruiz loss, many questioned Joshua’s ability against top-level competitors, and his workmanlike points victory in the rematch didn’t provide the answer many were looking for. Similar questions are being asked by fans as to whether AJ has the answer to Usyk’s questions – something no man is yet to figure out in the pro ranks.

Make no mistake, Anthony Joshua still carries huge power and has the ability to knock anyone out he comes up against, however, the AJ that steamrolled through 21 of his first 22 opponents gaining stoppage victories, has appeared a thing of the past in recent times. The AJ that had no fear of what was coming back in response and threw brutal power combinations was a man feared by many and with his new trainer, AJ needs to find the fire within and show shades of his early career.

Eat Sleep Boxing Repeat’s Paul Kelly was quoted as saying something similar, with the Northern Irish reporter stating “For me, this is make or break for Anthony Joshua. If he can be smart, and use his size, reach, and power advantage in the right way, I can see him gradually hurting Usyk in the middle rounds, before stopping him in the ninth or tenth. He mustn’t be Gung Ho and he must make calculated attacks.”

A win for AJ adds further greatness to his legacy and he would gain another huge name on his CV with a victory. Although his name is already in the history books for being 2x champion of the world, a third title reign will take its place within the books next to some legendary names.

For Oleksandr Usyk, it is a completely different battle. The champion spent a lengthy period back home in Ukraine, fighting against the Russian invasion before he was granted leave to enter his training camp. Questions have been rightfully raised as to whether Usyk will be in the right frame of mind come fight night and if he has been able to switch off during his camp. Although it's likely the fight will be a wanted and needed distraction for ‘the cat’ only time will tell whether he is in the right frame of mind to fight one of the world’s best.

Usyk and his team have focused on the fight, rather than the circumstances surrounding him and will be highly confident he can let his fists do the talking and it will be a case of repeat, not revenge.

A below-par heavyweight debut against Chazz Witherspoon and a fight against Derek Chisora that almost seemed like Usyk was testing his own chin against a decent, proven fighter, would have given AJ and his team massive hopes heading into the fight. Those hopes were soon squashed when Usyk felt his way into the fight and bamboozled AJ with his quick head movement, exceptional footwork, and fast combination punches.

Elliott Grigg of ESBR believes the fight will play out in a similar fashion, with the only difference being an Usyk stoppage. Elliott said “I think the fight will play out similarly in style to the first one, only with Joshua becoming more desperate in the middle rounds. I can see him trying to force things, tiring and then being topped somewhere 9-12”

Oleksandr Usyk was the undoubted Cruiserweight king during his title reign, visiting his opponent's back yards and dismantling them all one by one to become the undisputed champion in a 16-fight run and he will be looking to do the same within the heavyweights. Having proven he still holds his movement and speed at the heavier weight, the only remaining question is whether Usyk is able to stop his opponents, or it will be decision victories.

A second victory over AJ highlights Usyk’s ability as one of the greats in such a short period of time and puts his stock at an all-time high. Beating AJ and going 2-0 vs the Londoner puts any potential trilogy fights to bed and leads to one fight – undisputed status for the WBC belt, whether that be against Fury or vs the number 1 ranked contender for the vacant belt.

ESBR’S Daniel Francis believes it will be a repeat victory by Usyk, however, he will find this stoppage this time around. He said “I think Usyk stops Joshua in round 9. It will be a build up throughout the middle rounds of Usyk pressure and Usyk will begin to hurt AJ in round 7 and get the stoppage 2 rounds later with AJ emptying the tank.

Despite Usyk having chosen to not adopt a home away from home for his fights, huge credit has to be given to the Ukrainian fighter, for once again travelling to wherever his opponent and opponent’s promoter wants to host the fight. AJ himself enjoyed success on his one visit to the Middle East and will be looking for another victory.

The fight tops off a solid undercard, with fellow heavyweights Filip Hrgovic and Zhilei Zhang looking to steal the show, however, the main event is the fight fans around the world have eagerly anticipated. Saudi Arabia is set to play host to a fight where the winner and loser could head in very different directions, especially Anthony Joshua who is putting everything on the line taking the rematch.

Watch The Fight Live On Sky Sports:

Fighters’ form

Anthony Joshua

Oleksandr Usyk – Loss – Unanimous Decision (117-112, 116-112, 115-113)

Kubrat Pulev – Win – KO round 9

Andy Ruiz Jr.- Win – Unanimous Decision (119-110, 118-110, 118-110)

Andy Ruiz Jr. – Loss – TKO round 7

Oleksandr Usyk

Anthony Joshua – Win – Unanimous Decision (117-112, 116-112, 115-113)

Derek Chisora – Win – Unanimous Decision (117-112, 115-113, 115-113)

Chazz Witherspoon – Win – RTD round 7

Tony Bellew – Win – Ko round 8

Event information

Date: 20th August

Time: Main event ring walks are expected 10:30 pm UK time (undercard starts from 5pm)

Venue: King Abdullah Sports City stadium, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Promoter: Dazn

Watch: Sky Sports box office (£26.95)

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