On September 25,2021, Oleksandr Usyk took on Anthony Joshua for the unified heavyweight championship. Usyk pulled off the upset, defeating Joshua via unanimous decision. The judges scored the fight, 117-112, 115-113, and 116-112. Joshua had a rematch clause in the contract for that fight and now we are finally going to see that rematch on August 20th.
Oleksandr Usyk started his professional career as a cruiserweight and dominated that division. After that, he moved up to heavyweight, which led to the match-up against Joshua last year. In that fight, if you didn't know Usyk's history, you would of thought he was a heavyweight his whole career. He fought as if he was the bigger man, consistently coming forward and making the 6'6", 240 pound Joshua fight off of his back foot.
Usyk was able to use his mobility to control the first fight and it took Joshua a few rounds to adjust. Joshua had some success in the middle rounds of that first fight. That success was not sustainable as he was not able to avoid getting hit by Usyk. Usyk landed 148 punches on Joshua, that is the most Joshua has ever been hit in a match. So how does Usyk repeat this performance?
Keys to Victory for Oleksandr Usyk
Fight Like a Cruiserweight
Oleksandr Usyk did an amazing job in the first bout of feinting back and forth and also moving side to side. Most heavyweights do not move at a such a high rate in the ring. Joshua had trouble hitting and avoiding punches from Usyk. Joshua only landed 19.2% of the punches he threw while also taking the most punishment of his career. If Usyk comes into the rematch with that same approach, it may be another tough night for Joshua.
Jab, Jab, Jab
Usyk is a southpaw and Joshua uses an orthodox stance. In these match-ups of opposite stances, the jab can be lost. The natural position of the fighters makes the jab harder to land on a consistent basis and because of that, fighters tend to throw less jabs than they normally would. Usyk cannot get discouraged by the jab not landing. In the first fight, Usyk only landed 16.8% of his jabs but also hit Joshua more than he has ever been hit before. The jab was one of the keys for the other punches to get in and have a landing spot. Usyk cannot abandon the jab in this fight.
In the first bout, Roy Jones Jr was one of the commentators calling the fight. In the 12th round, he said, "Usyk is a strange puncher, back to back overhand lefts, who does that?" Jones Jr was a very unorthodox puncher during his career. As the saying goes, "Real Recognizes Real". Another advantage that Usyk has over most heavyweights is the plethora of punches he can throw. Usyk cannot fall into a trap of only throwing one punch at a time or only throwing traditional combinations. Unique combinations of punches and angles will get Usyk the victory.
Keys to Victory for Anthony Joshua
In the first bout, Joshua fought most of the fight off of his back foot, meaning he was the one backing up and giving up ground. If he wants a different result in this fight, he has to have a different approach. That starts with fighting like the bigger man. Joshua needs to impose his will and not give up any ground. Usyk's back only touched the ropes once in the first fight. That is not acceptable. Joshua needs to back Usyk up and take away his mobility advantage. If Usyk has less room and has to back up the entire fight, Joshua will have a good change of getting those belts back.
Make Usyk Pay
As mentioned earlier, in their first bout, Joshua got punched 148 times. That cannot happen again. Now Usyk has the quickness advantage but Joshua has to anticipate when the punches are coming and be ready to block and dodge those punches while moving forward. Joshua won't be able to dodge or block all of Usyk's punches but what he can do is be in position to counter if he is moving forward.
Usyk likes to throw multiple punches, if Joshua stays in range, he can catch him in between punches and maybe knock him out.
Be the AJ who got you here
Anthony Joshua is 6'6" with an 82 inch reach. Throughout the history of boxing, most fighters who are around that size, have been masters of the one, two combo. Jab and straight were there go to and they would mix in other punches but the straight punches was were their bread was buttered. What makes Joshua special is that at his size, he is fluid at throwing other punches like hooks and uppercuts. His most famous punch was an uppercut landed on Wladimir Klitschko that led to him winning the heavyweight crown for the first time. This ties into the first two keys, he has to be big, stay close, and make Usyk pay by throwing hooks and uppercuts on the inside to both the head and body.
This will be another great fight between two great boxers. Anthony Joshua will make this fight a more physical battle as he uses his size and takes more chances to try and land bigger punches. Oleksandr Usyk has an incredibly high ring IQ and will adjust to the physical tactics from Joshua. This will be a back and forth battle to goes to the scorecards and Usyk will win by close unanimous decision.