Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk have enjoyed similar boxing careers, from Olympic gold medals to dominant reigns as professional champions. But most of Usyk’s success has come at cruiserweight, and that could be enjoy to give Joshua a decisive advantage as he defends his WBO, WBA, and IBF heavyweight titles at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday in London.
Usyk weighed in at 221 pounds, the heaviest mark of his career, as he prepares for only his third heavyweight bout. Joshua tipped the scales at 240 pounds, one of the lightest totals of his career.
Usyk throws himself into heavyweight title picture
Prior to the title fight, Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) moved up and beat two notable – though decidedly second-tier – heavyweights in Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora. The 34-year-old Ukrainian will now move up in class significantly to take on Joshua, who ranks alongside Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder as one of the established elites in heavyweight boxing.
But while Usyk is likely facing the most difficult test of his career, he says the pressure is entirely on Joshua.
“It will be more difficult for him because he is defending three titles and fighting at home,” Usyk told The Guardian. “A bald guy will come to his home country and look for a big fight. It will be a great pleasure for me to box here again. I love London and the UK and it is my lucky place. But I am not showing my emotions much and I don’t think I should.”
Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) comes in as the favorite, but he has experienced an upset loss before. In 2019, Andy Ruiz Jr. stunned him to win the English fighter’s titles, though Joshua rebounded six months later in a rematch to avenge his only career defeat.
Champion making sacrifices to meet latest challenge
The 31-year-old wants to avoid another upset. He’s taking Usyk very seriously, even staying in Sheffield to train at GB Boxing’s headquarters rather than commute back and forth between there and London to see his family on the weekend. Joshua says it’s a necessary move to ensure he’s prepared to win on Saturday.
“I made the sacrifice to stay in camp this time,” Joshua told Yahoo. “For me as the years go on, I tend to become more disciplined rather than go the opposite way. I’m going to keep on trying to improve. That’s little things like cutting out driving on the way home, so I can rest on the weekends properly.”
DraftKings Sportsbook rates Joshua as a solid -265 favorite over Usyk (+210), a number that both shows Joshua is expected to win the fight while also acknowledging that the bout is dangerous. Joshua agrees, saying this may be one of the toughest challenges of his career.
“It definitely ranks up there,” Joshua told The Guardian. “There’s a lot of talk about size – good big guy beats good little guy. But if that’s the case, why am I waking up in the morning to train? Why am I sitting in ice baths? Why am I passionate about it? Because I’m fighting a good guy. Fighting the good fight. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”