A long, long time ago, back before anyone had ever heard of something called “COVID-19,” we published a list of the fights we really wanted to see in the year 2020, a wish list of the most mouth-watering match-ups pugilism could offer. And what, pray tell, topped that ranking of hypothetical tilts? Which “dream fight” was number one with a bullet? Well, as you might guess, it was the showdown we’re about to witness this coming Saturday, September 25th, Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk, a duel between two of the most talented fighters in the game who just happen to compete in what has always been boxing’s showcase “glamor division,” the heavyweights.
And as the world continues to reel from a devastating pandemic, boxing, as much as ever, needs high-quality, high-stakes, high-octane fights, and over here we think Joshua vs Usyk still qualifies as a genuine top attraction. Since turning pro in 2013, Joshua, the Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, has demonstrated he is one of the best in the game, the complete package in terms of power, strength, skill, athleticism and marketability. Meanwhile Usyk, also an Olympic champion, is one of the very few boxers to dominate an entire division and unify it, along the way establishing himself as, pound-for-pound, one of the most skilled pugilists on the planet. So, yeah, this remains, in our book at least, a “dream fight.” And so naturally the fearless folk at your dream boxing website are ready to pull the trigger and offer up their picks. Check ’em out:
I think the outcome depends entirely on how Joshua approaches the fight. If AJ is too inviting and allows Usyk to dictate the pace on the front foot, he may tire himself out mentally and, in turn, physically. AJ isn’t the most relaxed of fighters and engaging in a lead-hand-chess match against a southpaw with a higher ring IQ could make any physical precautions he’s made redundant.
But that is not to say Joshua should throw caution to the wind and attack Usyk the way Derek Chisora did. Usyk is also a competent counter-puncher, and AJ, much like Chisora, won’t have the stamina to maintain that kind of pressure. Usyk, meanwhile, who seldom loads up on punches and prefers to keep his activity high (and his opponent’s low) with threatening postures and energy-efficient probes, has proven he can maintain a high pace and work tirelessly for twelve rounds. I seriously doubt the added weight will affect Usyk’s fighting methods.
Even with the home advantage, outpointing Usyk will not be easy. AJ may need a KO, and his best chance to get one is by patiently stalking, imposing himself physically without being reckless, while staying in position to exploit any mistakes, albeit minor ones. For instance, Usyk is brilliant at switching angles, but sometimes when he slips and pivots he leans way over to the right in his high guard and then exits while his lead foot is stuck on the inside, which causes him to be off-balance. Also, Usyk doesn’t engage his shoulders or hips enough when throwing combinations, which leaves his head in the same position for too long and there to be hit. These are the kind of vulnerabilities a mid-range, heavyweight puncher should look to exploit. Provided AJ doesn’t overcomplicate things, I foresee a stoppage in his favour. — Lee Wylie
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks flip-flopping over how this fight will turn out, which shows just how brilliant a match-up it is. Usyk is more than capable of setting a relentless pace and stopping Joshua late, while the Brit carries the kind of power that his opponent hasn’t seen since he faced Murat Gassiev over three years ago. Joshua’s use of both the lead and rear uppercut in his last fight against Kubrat Pulev was superb, but the former cruiserweight king presents a far greater challenge. Most likely, this one will go to the cards, with Joshua edging a tactical affair. Both men are underrated on the inside, and the unified heavyweight champion can use his size to his advantage within the clinch. Hesitant prediction: Joshua on points. — Rob Lownie
Usyk has spoiler potential in this one as his elite technical acumen will definitely trouble Joshua. But I don’t think the Ukrainian has the strength and stamina at heavyweight to hold Joshua off for the full twelve rounds. I also don’t see Usyk landing with enough power to hurt and discourage Joshua. Joshua’s physicality and power will eventually wear down “The Cat.” Joshua by late round TKO. — Jamie Rebner
Usyk is the better boxer, but Joshua has a major size and strength advantage. I am not sure the Ukrainian can overcome that. Joshua wears him down and gets the win by close decision. — Joshua Isard
“The Cat” is being disrespected on this one. Not only is he a technical marvel, but he edges Joshua in terms of experience at the elite level, and on top of that, he’s a southpaw. The Ukrainian will outbox and befuddle Joshua over twelve fast-paced rounds and send the Briton all the way to the back of the heavyweight queue. — Rafael Garcia
I’m leaning towards Joshua. Usyk is the slicker, more skillful boxer and cannot be written off. But I think AJ’s size will tell and Usyk’s inability to land really hurtful shots that catch the judges’ eyes could be a deciding factor. Coupled with his extra physical strength and punching power, AJ is experienced and composed, with enough ring IQ that he should take a decision, in a technical and competitive boxing match. — Matt O’Brien
This fight is an exciting match-up. And the likelihood that the winner of Joshua vs Usyk will face the winner of Fury vs Wilder III adds a layer of long-term excitement as well. It’s a highly competitive match-up and I can imagine the fight going any way, including a draw, but I’m picking Usyk by decision. — Andrew Rihn
I have a sense Usyk will do pretty well against Joshua, and might well win. Usyk is strong for his weight, even though he is the smaller man, and will show Joshua moves he has never seen before. Joshua is certainly the more powerful puncher, but I am unsure how much he will want to press that advantage against Usyk, who, in terms of muscle mass, is larger than Andy Ruiz. — Glen Sharp
Usyk’s skill and quickness will likely trouble Joshua early, but I don’t see his advantages as being so great that AJ can’t eventually get to him. Joshua’s big edge in strength and power allow him to take over in the later rounds after a competitive first half, and he most likely wins a clear decision, or even possibly stops the smaller man in the championship rounds. — Hunter Breckenridge
Joshua vs Usyk is the battle of unknowns, which is what makes it so fascinating. Usyk, a relative novice at heavyweight, has not convinced fans that he has fully acclimated to the division, at least not to the extent necessary to defeat a giant like Anthony Joshua. Joshua, on the other hand, has never faced an opponent as technically savvy as Usyk, let alone a southpaw with elite level skills and ring IQ. Also, Joshua has plenty of unresolved technical deficiencies of his own, which were not, as some naively believe, resolved by his rematch win over an obese Andy Ruiz. Unlike Usyk, AJ is not very fluid on his feet, and he hasn’t learned how to effectively use his height and range in a manner similar to Lennox Lewis and the Klitschko brothers. That said, AJ is still one of the biggest punchers in the division, and has an awesome offensive arsenal when he’s able to deploy it.
I see this duel playing out as a chess match for the most part, with Usyk circling and AJ struggling to cut off the ring and trap him. Unlike Chisora, who presented an open target as he chased down Usyk, I don’t see AJ presenting as many counter punching opportunities to Usyk. It will be a close but unanimous decision victory for AJ, in which the difference will be what Usyk did not do, as much as what AJ did. I’m just not convinced that Usyk is comfortable enough at heavyweight to be ready for a task of this magnitude. — Alden Chodash
I like Joshua by decision. I think the fight is going to be tactical in nature and Joshua’s jab and right hand will be enough to shade a number of rounds where there isn’t much going on. I’m not sure if Usyk will be able to find a consistent rhythm. I don’t think the fight will catch fire, but Joshua will do enough to get the job done. — Adam Abramowitz
Usyk by decision. — David Curcio
Usyk is something else in the ring, but he hasn’t been something else as a heavyweight, at least not yet. That doesn’t mean the guy can’t present himself in full bloom on Saturday, but that’s not something I’d risk a prediction on. The truth is that, terrific as he may be, Usyk hasn’t been particularly overwhelming in his two outings in the big man’s division. He’s also gotten hit. I’ve got to go with Joshua here by late stoppage. He just swats too hard, and should be able to keep Usyk off him. — Sean Crose
This is a difficult one because Usyk’s body of work at heavyweight is so limited. He has to be better than he was against Chisora and he also has to get Joshua’s respect. If Joshua has no fear of the smaller man’s power, he will walk him down and just take round after round. I won’t be shocked if Usyk rises to the occasion and outboxes Joshua but it’s a tall order given Joshua’s physical advantages. The safe bet is Joshua by decision and that’s what I think is going to happen. — Robert Portis
You can make a strong case for either man, but I’m anticipating an inspired Usyk will surprise us. I have doubts about Joshua’s overall fortitude, his mental strength, and I suspect that as the fight goes on he will tire and become more defensive which will allow Usyk to come forward and let his hands go. Also, tactically, I don’t think Joshua can surprise Usyk, whereas the crafty Ukrainian may well show Joshua things he’s never seen before, throw him off his game with the southpaw stance and different angles, catch him with shots he doesn’t see coming. And if Andy Ruiz can render Joshua helpless, then I like Usyk’s chances to do the same, or at least put him on the defensive and keep him there. Especially since all Joshua has faced since that setback is a woefully conditioned Ruiz and a used-up Kubrat Pulev. “The Cat” by decision. — Michael Carbert