How can Anthony Joshua defeat Oleksandr Usyk?

By Jeff Aronow: Oleksandr Usyk’s recent 20+ lb weight loss that he sustained in defending Ukraine against the Russian invasion could give Anthony Joshua his best chance of defeating the unified heavyweight champion.

Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) probably won’t be able to put all the weight back on in time to defend his IBF, WBA & WBO titles against Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) in July, and even if he could , he’d be sluggish from adding the weight so quickly.

Joshua’s best chance of beating the drained-down Usyk would be to add more muscle for the fight to take advantage of his recent weight loss.

In their fight last September at Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium, Joshua weighed a slim 240 lbs, and he didn’t perform well at that weight.

You can argue that Joshua would have been stronger if he’d come into the fight in the low 250s, which would enable him to crush the smaller Usyk.

Joshua’s heaviest career weights:

  • 254 – Carlos Takam – TKO 10
  • 250 – Wladimir Klitschko – TKO 11
  • 249.5 – Gary Cornish – TKO 1
  • 249 – Eric Molina – TKO 3
  • 248.5 – Kevin Johnson – TKO 2
  • 248 – Raphael Zambrano – TKO 2

What these fights showed is that Joshua is at his best when he’s heavier, not lighter like he’s been in the last three years of his career.

Against Usyk, Joshua needs to pack on the size and focus on overpowering the cruiserweight-sized Usyk. That’s Joshua’s best and perhaps only chance of winning the rematch.

“Can you make any sense of the relationship between Rob McCracken and Anthony Joshua and the representation of that in the fight against Oleksandr Usyk?” said Simon Jordan to TalkSport Boxing.

“The only way Anthony Joshua was to lose that fight was to fight the way he did, which was to fight Usyk’s best fight,” Simon continued.

“The conventional wisdom was, Anthony Joshua, bigger, stronger man in there was going to put it on Usyk and do the things your good at,” said Jordan.

“Anthony Joshua is not going to win the battle in the center of the ring clearly, so he has to be able to control the ring, he has to be able to make Usyk work harder than he wants to work,” said Ben Davison.

“If he can control the ring and create scenarios, that can favor Anthony Joshua, then he has a chance, but in order to do that, he has to control areas of the ring where the fighting is taking place,” said Davison.

“He has to be able to control the ring and make Usyk fight at a faster pace than he wants to. For him to stand in the middle of the ring and to allow Usyk to dictate, he was never going to win that lead-hand battle. It was never going to happen.

“He’ll get out-thought and therefore out-fought, but if Joshua can control areas of the ring, make Usyk skirt around, make him break his base, attack when he breaks his base, he’s going to have a lot easier entries , a lot safer entries and he’ll land cleaner and more often.

“Sometimes a fighter doesn’t go out and do what you ask them to do. That situation and scenario can happen. I don’t know if that’s the case, but sometimes if a fighter already has it in his head, ‘This is how I’m going to go about the fight,’ making that adjustment, they’re just not going to make it .

“Sometimes there is that scenario. No matter what I’m asking for, they’re not going to make that adjustment. So you have to look for something else,” said Davison.

“What Joshua did wrong in that fight and I spoke to Joshua about it as well, is he went out there and tries to outbox one of the best boxers in the world,” said Spencer Oliver.

“That’s where he tactically got it wrong, and he couldn’t make those adjustments and he couldn’t adapt because once Usyk got in a rhythm, it was Joshua fighting on the backfoot and he couldn’t implement the stuff that would have won him the fight.

“The stuff that would have won him the fight was his rawness, strength, speed & power. He should have taken Usyk out of his rhythm that would have allowed him to get into his rhythm,” said Oliver.

“Joshua not as intelligent as Usyk, was mirroring that same lead-hand rhythm, and Usyk was often breaking it,” said Davison. “That’s what was catching Anthony Joshua.

“Usyk would create a rhythm, and Joshua would match it, mirroring his opponent, which happens when a fighter knows his opponent is slightly better than him. They’ll often find themselves mirroring what their opponent is doing.

“Usyk was creating a rhythm with his lead hand, Joshua was mirroring it and Usyk was breaking it and getting caught out every single time. For sure, when it comes to that element of the game for sure,” said Davison when asked if he believes Joshua is less intelligent than Usyk.

“When you would have told Joshua to roll the dice in that fight because the fight was slipping away from him, we could see it, and that was from the opening round really,” said Oliver.

“As the fight was going on, we could see that Joshua was getting more negative and allowing Usyk to pick up the rhythm even more and Joshua was starting to get hurt.

“At one point in the corner, at what point would you have said, ‘Joshua, you need to roll the dice here and take the fight to him because it’s all bust,'” said Oliver.

“It’s difficult because he got hurt with a left hand in the first ten seconds,” said Davison.

By the time the fight reached the tenth round, I would have said to Joshua, ‘You need to rip up the script now and take the fight straight to him and knock out or get knocked out because you’re not going to win the fight,” said Oliver. “He was slowly and systematically getting broken down, wasn’t he?

“Given where we are now, does he beat Usyk next time around, and if he does or doesn’t, does he beat Tyson [Fury] when he eventually lands in the ring with.”

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