Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2: Fight prediction, undercard, start time, odds, preview, expert pick


Short on phrases however heavy on depth, former two-time champion Anthony Joshua summed up the stakes of Saturday’s unified title rematch in opposition to Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia as succinctly as will be (5:15 p.m. ET — DAZN subscribe now).

“It’s a must-win,” Joshua stated throughout Wednesday’s ultimate press convention in Jeddah, “but I like the pressure.” 

In protection of Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs), he has been right here and executed that earlier than. The 32-year-old celebrity from Great Britain misplaced his trio of world titles through large upset to Andy Ruiz in 2019 solely to redeem himself six months later, additionally in Saudi Arabia, when “AJ” rigorously outboxed a massively obese Ruiz to win the rematch.

The variations, nonetheless, between the circumstances of this title rematch — to not point out the extent of opponent within the 35-year-old Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs), the previous undisputed cruiserweight champion who’s among the many pound-for-pound greatest fighters on the planet — could not be any completely different.  

The motivation for Joshua may really feel a bit acquainted however when the 2 hulking heavyweights lastly contact gloves contained in the Jeddah Superdome for Usyk’s first protection of his IBF, WBA and WBO titles, the headspace Usyk occupies will undoubtedly distinctive.

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Rather a lot has modified within the 11 months since Usyk outboxed Joshua inside a raucous Tottenham Hotspur Stadium within the U.Ok. Not solely did Usyk’s native Ukraine enter an enormous battle following an invasion from Russia, Usyk was among the many many notable fight sports activities athletes to place his profession on pause so as to be part of his nation’s battle on the frontlines.  

In truth, it was amid stated battle the place Usyk, whose thoughts was on something however boxing, made the troublesome choice to just accept the Joshua rematch and start coaching camp after talking with so many high-ranking navy officers on the bottom and injured troopers inside hospitals. 

“He made his decision to take the rematch in these circumstances after he received a massive support from his Ukrainian compatriots,” stated Alexander Krassyuk, Usyk’s promoter with K2. “Every conversation he heard words of support and blessing to take the rematch. People want him to fight and win. They want the Ukrainian flag to be rising and want the Ukrainian anthem to be heard around the whole planet. 

“The entire world has to know that Ukraine is the nation of free transport, and powerful and spiritually dependent individuals. Not too many individuals might ship this message to lots of of thousands and thousands of individuals however Usyk is in a position to try this and he does that by the game of boxing.” 

It’s troublesome, in fact, to mission simply how a lot the realities of warfare and the delight for his nation may change every little thing from Usyk’s mindset to his efficiency within the rematch. But if battle week has been any indication, Usyk is working at a completely completely different degree of focus and motivation. 

Usyk has introduced again the shaved head with small pony tail on prime that he proudly wore whereas profitable gold at heavyweight within the 2012 London Olympics, the identical occasion that Joshua additionally received gold at tremendous heavyweight. The coiffure known as oseledets, a conventional look of the Cossacks, a warrior individuals from south and east Ukraine, and was even adopted by everybody from the Vikings within the tenth century to English king William the Conqueror on the Battle of Hastings.  

Krassyuk has gone so far as describing Usyk’s demeanor as that of a “cyborg” all through an nearly abrasively demanding coaching camp.

“He went through the hell and the training camp in the last three months and it did not kill him. It made him even stronger,” Krassyuk stated. “I have never seen him more determined than now. Not too many champions in the world can share the experience of going through the war and then making their way to the ring to defend their heavyweight crown. It was an exclusively, extremely complicated challenge for him but he seems to have passed it good.” 

Just how difficult, one may ask? According to Usyk’s supervisor, Egis Klimas, his fighter rode his bicycle for 100 kilometers in 113-degree warmth upon arrival in Saudi Arabia and swam for 5 hours in a pool simply hours earlier than the start of the press convention. Usyk additionally submerged himself beneath water whereas holding his breath for so long as 4 minutes and 40 seconds whereas “almost passing away and shaking himself,” in accordance with Klimas.

Like Joshua, nonetheless, Usyk was very quick on phrases when requested to explain what this battle means and the way the rematch may be completely different. 

“We learned each other in the first fight,” Usyk stated, with Krassyuk translating. “We had enough time to study each other and this Saturday will be a great, great fight.” 

Aside from Usyk’s journey from the frontlines to the boxing ring, the largest storyline related to the rematch has centered upon the adjustments Joshua has made to his camp by changing long-time coach Rob McCracken with Mexican-American coach Robert Garcia.  

Joshua, who stated he is “looking to compete” within the rematch, did not get into how his fashion may change beneath Garcia, though movies from coaching camp which have made the rounds on social Media confirmed Joshua’s newfound dedication to attacking the physique, which was missing in final September’s first assembly.  

“The team did their job,” Garcia stated. “The champion did what he was supposed to do and we are ready. We are ready to do it. He’s happy and smiling with everybody and not having a problem. I think that’s a good thing. I think we are all ready for him to bring those belts home.”

The different featured bout within the heavyweight division might produce a future obligatory challenger for one of many titles at stake on Saturday night time when Filip Hrgovic and Zhilei Zhang are set to battle it out, Both veterans carry an undefeated mark with Hrgovic coming into at 14-0 and Zhang at 24-0-1. Both have demolished their most up-to-date foes with Hrgovic having scored 12 knockouts in his 14 professional bouts. Zhang, 39, has scored three stoppages in his 4 most up-to-date appearances. His lone blemish got here in February 2021 when he fought Jerry Forrest to a majority draw.

Plus, former tremendous middleweight champion Callum Smith is again when he takes on Mathieu Bauderlique at gentle heavyweight. Smith held the WBA crown at 168 kilos earlier than dropping the belt by choice to pound-for-pound nice Canelo Alvarez. The 32-year-old Englishman determined to maneuver as much as 175 kilos following the defeat and debuted with a second-round TKO of Lenin Castillo in September 2021. Now, Smith will get one other tune-up contest earlier than probably difficult for one of many main titles at gentle heavyweight sooner or later.

Let’s take a better take a look at the total battle card together with the newest odds from Caesars Sportsbook earlier than making a prediction and pick on the principle occasion.

Fight card, odds

  • Oleksandr Usyk (c) -210 vs. Anthony Joshua +175, WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles
  • Filip Hrgovic -1000 vs. Zhilei Zhang +650, heavyweights
  • Callum Smith -1100 vs. Mathieu Bauderlique +700, gentle heavyweights
  • Badou Jack vs. Richard Rivera, cruiserweights

Prediction 

If the largest query surrounding the rematch is which boxer has the higher probability of bettering upon their efficiency from the primary battle, clearly that is the 6-foot-6 Joshua, who failed to determine himself because the bodily larger man. Joshua additionally made a pretty big strategic error final September by attempting to outbox such a technical wizard in Usyk.  

The addition of Garcia, nonetheless, hasn’t been sufficient to elevate Joshua, a slight underdog, again into the function of betting favourite coming into the second battle. A number of that doubtless facilities round the truth that though Usyk just isn’t referred to as a giant puncher at heavyweight, he succeeded within the early rounds by stinging Joshua with simply sufficient clear left arms to self-discipline him away from attempting to stroll down his smaller foe.  

Usyk, who weighed in Friday lower than one pound heavier than the 221 he fought at within the first battle, will nonetheless be giving up three inches in top, 4 inches in attain and near 23 kilos in weight this weekend. But these variations will solely turn into a bonus for Joshua if he is in a position to minimize off the ring, gradual Usyk down with physique pictures and use his bulk to lean on Usyk.  

If Joshua cannot set up himself as the larger man and is not prepared to danger getting knocked out so as to punch with Usyk and depend on the largest benefit he has as a two-fisted finisher with deadly uppercuts on the within, a replay of the primary battle could be very attainable.  

But there’s solely so many clear punches Joshua can take behind a chin that has been routinely questioned all through his well-publicized reign, which included AJ getting up off the canvas to complete former unified king Wladimir Klitschko of their 2017 thriller. And one can be hard-pressed, even along with his lack of one-punch ending energy, to search out an opponent more proficient at discovering Joshua’s chin than the sniper Usyk, who possesses an arsenal of selection in terms of the pace and angles of his pictures.  

Had Joshua dedicated to ending Ruiz of their rematch as an alternative of enjoying it secure, the betting odds for this rematch may look lots completely different. And given the psychological toughness of Usyk, an attribute that has solely been sharpened all through the truth of warfare in his residence nation, one has to surprise if AJ may discover extra hazard than success ought to he flip this rematch into extra of a battle than a boxing match. 

Both fighters are extremely expert in their very own regard and every have sufficient motivation to outlive and advance in any respect price in hopes of luring WBC champion Tyson Fury into the primary four-belt undisputed heavyweight championship bout in boxing historical past. But if we’re being trustworthy, Usyk doubtless has extra, in nearly each single class past energy.  

Pick: Usyk through TKO10 

Who wins Usyk vs. Joshua? And which prop is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see Brandon Wise’s greatest bets for Saturday, all from the CBS fight sports activities specialist who has crushed his boxing picks the final two years, and discover out.

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