Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk Fight Preview, Prediction and Picks

Boxing writer Steve Kim joins OddsChecker for the first of a regular series of fight previews. First up, Steve analyzes Saturday's heavyweight clash between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk
Steve Kim
Thu, September 23, 5:00 AM EDT

Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk Fight Preview

This Saturday from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in England, unified heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) faces his IBF mandatory challenger, Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) in what is one of the more interesting heavyweight match-ups in recent memory.

Click here to see the betting odds for Joshua vs Usyk.

The hulking Joshua is one of the games true attractions, as he not only performs in sold-out arenas, but stadium's throughout the UK. From the very beginning of his career he has been earmarked for success.

With a chiseled physique and personable manner, he was an easy sell to the British public, who for years had been clamoring for a heavyweight champion to call their own. While Lennox Lewis was certainly a distinguished heavyweight, many of his most notable bouts took place in the United States.

Beyond his marketability, Joshua has solid skills, possesses power in both hands, an educated left jab and the requisite size at 6'6 needed for the modern game. He checks all the boxes.

After making his debut in the fall of 2013, it took just 15 outings for him to be positioned into a title shot, as he was matched against Charles Martin, who at the time was the IBF belt-holder. Joshua, took care of Martin in two rounds at the O2 Arena in London. After stopping Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina, Joshua engaged a memorable back-and-forth battle with Wladimir Klitschko (where both hulking heavyweights hit the deck) where he finally scored an 11th round stoppage.

While Joshua was able to overcome adversity on this memorable night in 2017 in Wembley Stadium, he has never been quite the same dominant -- and confident -- figure inside the ring. Three fights later he took on Andy Ruiz (a late replacement for Jarrell Miller, who tested positive for a cadre of illegal performance enhancing drugs prior to the fight) and was on the short end of a stunning upset, as the portly Ruiz halted him in seven stunning rounds at the Madison Square Garden in New York in June of 2019.

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He would reverse that result in their rematch in the very next fight in what was a very safe and cautious performance, where he boxed almost exclusively from the perimeter of the ring to regain his titles. Last December he scored a 9th round KO of Kubrat Pulev in what was his only fight of 2020.

In Usyk, he's facing a highly regarded fighter, but someone who is relatively unproven in this division. Since claiming the undisputed cruiserweight title after winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament (where he claimed all the major belts) and taking care of Tony Bellew to conclude a banner 2018 campaign, he has fought just twice as a heavyweight since.

And quite frankly, he looked rather pedestrian in defeating Chazz Witherspoon (TKO7) and Dereck Chisora (W12).

Usyk, a southpaw, is a gifted boxer, who moves well for a man his size. But you wonder how effective he is at the upper echelon of this division versus significantly bigger men. Even as a cruiserweight, he was never considered a particular powerful puncher, but someone who would wear down his foes with his constant activity and conditioning. It's one thing to defeat 200 pound fighters, it's something quite different to overcome men who oftentimes come in near 250 pounds.

He's certainly the visiting fighter in this event, but given his globe trotting history, Usyk will not be fazed. The Ukrainian has faced Bellow in Britain, Murat Gassiev in Russia, Mairis Breidis in Latvia and Marco Huck in Germany in recent years.

Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk Prediction

Size matters, and while Usyk is certainly accustomed to being on the road, the deck is stacked against him. While Matchroom Sports has an interest in both boxers, it's Joshua who they recently announced to a life-time promotional contract. He is their flagship fighter. Boxing logic says that every close round in this contest will be given to 'AJ'. Also, Usyk is a relatively slow starter who's been prone to give up early rounds. While he may have the superior engine late, Joshua will have piled up enough rounds to build a significant lead and then overcome the late rally of Usyk to come out victorious.

Pick: Anthony Joshua -225

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