Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2: Fight Prediction, Undercard, Start Time, Odds, Preview, Expert Picks


Former two-time champion Anthony Joshua is short on words but big on intensity. He summarized the stakes of Saturday’s unified title rematch against Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia as succinctly as possible (5:15 p.m. ET – DAZN subscribe now).

“It’s a must,” Joshua said during Wednesday’s final press conference in Jeddah, “but I like the pressure.”

He’s been here to defend Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) and has done so before. The 32-year-old superstar from Britain lost his world champion trio to Andy Ruiz in massive excitement in 2019, only to make amends six months later, also in Saudi Arabia, when ‘AJ’ carefully unwrapped a massively overweight Ruiz to winning the title rematch.

The differences, however, lie in the circumstances of this title rematch — not to mention the level of the opponent in 35-year-old Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs), the former undisputed cruiserweight champion who is among the pound-for-pound contenders up the planet – could not be otherwise.

The motivation for Joshua might sound a bit familiar to you, but when the two huge heavyweights in the Jeddah Superdome finally touch the gloves to celebrate Usyk’s first defense of his IBF, WBA and WBO titles, the headspace Usyk will take up , undoubtedly be unique.

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Much has changed in the 11 months since Usyk overtook Joshua in a roaring Tottenham Hotspur stadium in the UK, who has been sidelined to join his nation’s fight on the front lines.

In fact, in the midst of this conflict, thinking about anything but boxing, Usyk made the difficult decision to accept the Joshua rematch and start training camp after speaking to so many senior military officers on the ground and injured soldiers in hospitals.

“He made his decision to fight the rematch under these circumstances after receiving massive support from his fellow Ukrainians,” said Alexander Krassyuk, Usyk’s promoter at K2. “In every conversation he heard words of support and blessings for the rematch. People want him to fight and win. They want the Ukrainian flag to be raised and the Ukrainian anthem to be heard across the planet.”

“The whole world needs to know that Ukraine is the country of free transport and strong and mentally dependent people. Not too many people could get that message across to hundreds of millions of people, but Usyk is able to do it, and he’s doing it through the sport of boxing.”

Of course, it’s difficult to imagine how much the realities of war and pride in his nation could change everything from Usyk’s mindset to his performance in the rematch. But if fight week was any indication, Usyk works on a completely different level of focus and motivation.

Usyk has brought back the shaved head with a small ponytail he wore proudly when he won heavyweight gold at the London 2012 Olympics, the same event where Joshua also won super heavyweight gold. Called oseledets, the hairstyle is a traditional look of the Cossacks, a warrior people of southern and eastern Ukraine, and has even been adopted by everyone from the Vikings in the 10th century to England’s King William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

Krassyuk has gone so far as to describe Usyk’s behavior during an almost aggressively demanding training camp as that of a ‘cyborg’.

“He’s been through hell and training camp for the last three months and it didn’t kill him. It made him even stronger,” said Krassyuk. “I’ve never seen him so determined as he is now. Not too many champions in the world can share the experience of surviving war and then making their way to the ring to defend their heavyweight crown. It was an exclusive, extremely complicated challenge for him, but he seems to have coped well.”

How challenging, one might ask? According to Usyk’s manager Egis Klimas, upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, his fighter rode 100 kilometers by bike in the 113-degree heat and swam in a pool for five hours just hours before the start of the press conference. Usyk also dove underwater while holding his breath for four minutes and 40 seconds while “nearly dying and shaking himself,” according to Klimas.

However, like Joshua, Usyk was at a loss for words when asked to describe what this fight means and how the rematch could be different.

“We met in the first fight,” Usyk said while Krassyuk translated. “We’ve had enough time to study each other and this Saturday is going to be a great, great fight.”

Aside from Usyk’s journey from the front lines to the boxing ring, the biggest storyline related to the rematch revolved around the changes Joshua made to his camp, replacing longtime trainer Rob McCracken with Mexican-American trainer Robert Garcia.

Joshua, who said he wants to “compete” in the rematch, didn’t elaborate on how his style might change under Garcia, although videos from training camp that have been doing the rounds on social media highlight Joshua’s newfound commitment to attacking pointing to the body was absent at the first meeting last September.

“The team did their job,” said Garcia. “The champion did what he was supposed to do and we are ready. We’re ready to do it. He is happy and smiling with everyone and has no problem. I think that’s a good thing. I think we’re all ready for him Bring those belts home.”

The undercard will feature some familiar names for hardcore fans. More heavyweights enter the co-feature as veterans Filip Hrgovic and Zhilei Zhang go head-to-head. Also, former defending champion Callum Smith is back in a light heavyweight contest when he takes on Mathieu Bauderlique. And another former champion returns as Badou Jack takes on Richard Rivera at cruiserweight.

“I have great memories from Jeddah because that’s where I was crowned world champion, the best moment of my career so far,” Smith said this week. “It’s good to be back here.

“Used the same gym the other day that I used for my fight with Groves, yes good memories to take into Saturday’s fight.”

Before we make a prediction and settle into the main event, let’s take a closer look at the full fight map along with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook.

Battle Map, 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, light heavyweights
  • Badou Jack vs. Richard Rivera, cruiserweights


If the biggest question surrounding the rematch is which boxer has the better chance of improving on their performance from the first fight, it’s clearly the 6-foot-6 Joshua, who failed to establish himself as the physically taller to establish man. Joshua also made a pretty big strategic mistake last September when he tried to unwrap such a technical wizard in Usyk.

However, the addition of Garcia wasn’t enough to elevate Joshua, a slight underdog, back into the role of betting favorite going into the second fight. A lot of this probably revolves around the fact that while Usyk isn’t known as a big heavyweight puncher, he was successful in the early rounds, stabbing Joshua with just enough clean left hands to keep him from poking his smaller foe to bring case.

Usyk, who was less than a pound heavier on Friday than the 221 he fought with in the first bout, will still be three inches tall, four inches wide and nearly 23 pounds this weekend. But those differences only become an advantage for Joshua when he’s able to slice the ring, slow Usyk down with body shots, and use his bulk to lean on Usyk.

If Joshua can’t establish himself as the bigger man and isn’t willing to risk being KO’d to hit with Usyk and rely on the biggest advantage he has as a two-punched finisher with deadly uppercuts on the inside, a repeat of the first fight is very possible.

But there are only so many clean punches Joshua can take from behind a chin that has been routinely questioned during his high-profile reign, including AJ, who rose from the screen to take on former united king Wladimir Klitschko in their 2017 thriller take care of. And even with his lack of one-punch finishing power, it would be difficult to find an opponent who can find Joshua’s chin better than sniper Usyk, who possesses an arsenal of variety when it comes to the speed and angle of his chin shots .

Had Joshua committed to taking down Ruiz in their rematch instead of playing it safe, the betting odds for that rematch could be very different. And given Usyk’s mental toughness, a trait that has only been sharpened by the reality of the war in his home country, one has to wonder if AJ could find more danger than success by turning this rematch into a fight rather than a fight boxes transformed to fit.

Both fighters are highly skilled in their own way and each has enough motivation to survive and advance at all costs in hopes of enticing WBC champion Tyson Fury into the first undisputed four-belt heavyweight championship bout in boxing history . But if we’re being honest, Usyk probably has more, in almost every single category beyond the Force.

Choose: Usyk via TKO10

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