Like Christmas, major events in a boxer’s career come around but once a year. However, once they’re here, these big-money fights tend to grab the lion’s share of fans’ attention.
Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, who will fight Britain’s Anthony Joshua on September 25th, has only had three professional encounters since November 2018. One of which was a fight where he beat Joshua’s compatriot Tony Bellew by KO. Pundits and punters eagerly await the upcoming bout, which promises to be a firecracker.
As usual, there have already been dozens of column inches dedicated to the two fighters’ diets, training, sleep schedules, and choice of the bus into the town centre, yet pundits seem to have decided that physical mass will be the deciding factor in Joshua and Usyk’s bout this autumn. The Brit has slimmed down while Usyk has bulked up, two developments that seem to validate analysts’ early focus on body type.
In any case, Joshua is 10/3 to win on points or decision in the latest Joshua vs Usyk odds, with a victory in the first three rounds available at 11/1, according to the boxing betting tips. Usyk, who will enter the fight with a 100% record (18-0, 13 by knockout), compared to Joshua at 24-1 (22 by KO), is a less popular 2/1 to win the bout but a victory by KO provides an interesting option at 17/2.
Height and Reach
Joshua has found something of a new look in recent weeks. The 6-ft-6-in pugilist has reportedly dropped between seven and ten pounds since December last year, meaning that he could tip the scales at a slender 230lbs before the Usyk fight. His opponent, who hails from Simferopol, is 6-ft-3-in and (now) around 232lbs. Usyk has gained a total of 14lbs since his October 2020 victory over Derek Chisora, prior to which, he was considered too light by some commentators.
While retaining a distinct height and reach advantage, the obvious argument against Joshua in the Usyk match is that he’s thrown away the third advantage by slimming down. However, promoter Eddie Hearn claims that the only difference in the fighter’s physique is that it’s more boxer-like. Put another way, Joshua has lost unnecessary muscle to become a more well-rounded, more intelligent athlete.
It might sound like a lot of marketing speak but, in recent months, Joshua has increasingly adopted the technical style of boxing championed by Wladimir Klitschko. While the latter has been criticised as a rather stiff combatant, Klitschko was able to control the pace of a fight, something that Joshua will look to do when he meets Usyk. The emphasis of this style is on speed and technicality.
As arguably the more technical boxer, though, Usyk has the ability to throw a spanner in the works, which could see an overconfident Joshua cut down to size. The Brit’s loss of ten pounds of muscle, therefore, seems like a bit of a gamble, sacrificing the proven advantage of power to match Usyk at his own game. Joshua did utilise a similar style against Andy Ruiz Jr and Joseph Parker to great success, however.
As the countdown continues, all eyes will be on the bout to see whether these drastic physical transformations pay off in the ring.