Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua: A fight for the ages
In only his third fight in the division the Ukrainian finds himself facing the biggest challenge of his career yet.
The Ukrainian appears to be ready but in Anthony Joshua he faces the biggest threat he's come across so far.
Can Oleksandr Usyk avenge the Klitsckos?
With the heavy weight title fight between Oleksandr Usyk and unified champion Anthony Joshua just days away on September 25th in London, it's hard not to reminisce back to to former champions and brothers, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko. Should Usyk manage to avenge them, he will surely make a lasting mark on Ukraine's history in the sport. Usyk who comes into the fight with an 18-0 record - 13 of which were KOs - will become his country's first world heavyweight champion since the Klitschko brothers, should he emerge victorious at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this coming Saturday.
Olympic gold to Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion
After winning himself a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics and then proceeding to win all four major cruiserweight world titles in 2018, he was crowned undisputed champion. From there Usyk made his official move up to heavyweight division in October 2019. Today, with only two fights in the division under his belt, the Ukranian will face the biggest challenge of his career, as he faces world champion Anthony Joshua who boasts an intimidating record of 24-1 with 22 KOs. His team in contrast believes there has never been a better time than now.
How to beat Joshua
According to K2 promotions director, Alexander Krassyuk, the guidance of the Klitcschko's Ukraine based company has brought Usyk's career to this very moment. In an interview with ESPN he was not coy about what the plan would be for Joshua. "Boxers can just throw a punch to the chin and hope to get lucky, and they might be once out of 10, but can they do it 10 times in a row?" Krassyuk said. "You have to box and win each and every round to win the title. Boxing is the art of defense first and foremost, landing punches and not getting anything back. Footwork is the basis for throwing punches and defending. This is very important for any fighter, and Oleksandr is very good at this."
Joshua who is a naturally bigger man, weighed in at 240 pounds for his last fight, some 40 pounds heavier than the cruiser weight limit at which Usyk was fighting a short time ago. Krassyuk on the other hand, believes that means nothing. "He has been working hard ... building his body for the heavyweight division, and he's a true heavyweight now," Krassyuk stated. "No one can say he is a cruiser weight fighting as a heavyweight like Chris Byrd was. Oleksandr is a natural heavyweight now."
Usyk, who weighed 217 pounds for his second heavyweight fight in October, will undoubtedly opt for a mobile approach rather than punching it out with Joshua. Such an approach has worked before when considering lighter fighters taking on heavyweights. The likes of David Haye, Evander Holyfield and Roy Jones Jr. can all attest.
Anthony Joshua or nothing
Usyk, who made six defenses as a world cruiser weight champion, stepped up to heavyweight after his eighth-round TKO win over Joshua's fellow Englishman Tony Bellew in November 2018. "Fighting Joshua is my goal," Usyk told reporters in November 2018 after ending Englishman Tony Bellew's career. A fight that would see him officially move into the heavyweight division. Following that he would go on to beat Chazz Witherspoon in October of 2019 and Derek Chisora one year later in October 2020, thereby setting the stage for a showdown with Joshua.
Usyk, the Lomachenkos and the love of Ukraine
Asked Usyk's reputation in his homeland Krassyuk was confident, "You can't compare him to the Klitschkos because that was 10 years ago. It's more about the heritage than the fame. When you have the achievement of beating Joshua, something Wladimir couldn't do, it will be huge." Krassyuk believes Usyk is already a bigger star in his homeland than the brilliant three division world champion, Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Recalling the past Krassyuk spoke of Usyk's return after taking gold at the 2012 London Olympics. "His face was everywhere in the country on billboards," Krassyuk said. "His fights have been televised here in Ukraine, by one of the biggest stations, and people have been able to watch his fights on TV. Lomachenko started his career in the United States, and his first three fights were not even televised here [Ukraine]. The time difference was also a factor. Oleksandr has fought in Ukraine, Russia, Europe as well as America."
"If you ask Usyk who his favorite fighter is, he will say Loma," Krassyuk said. "Lomachenko has played a big part in his career... he's like his brother. They have been working together since 2006, 2007; they are from the same school of fighters and have the same trainer." Interstingly the trainer Krassyuk speaks of is the father of Vasiliy Lomachenko, Anatoly.
"Anatoly Lomachenko has been his mentor since the Olympic Games, and he still is," Krassyuk said. "He will be in his corner in London."