Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua signed a ‘career long’ promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing this week and the first assignment on his new contract is arguably the toughest of his career. The WBA, WBO & IBF heavyweight king will face off against the former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk who is looking to claim belts in a second weight class.
Joshua will enter as the belt holder but his reign as heavyweight champion has not been straight forward. Despite winning his first world title in just sixteen fights, a brutal knockout defeat to Andy Ruiz in 2019 was a timely reminder that nobody is safe in the heavyweight division. The former Olympic champion did claim revenge over Ruiz in the rematch and has rebuilt successfully, but he is by no means unbeatable and that makes this fight with Usyk even more interesting.
Oleksandr Usyk is one of the most extravagant personalities in the entire sport. The Ukrainian is a generational talent but his out of the ring personality is something that has endeared him to fans in recent years. You never really know what you will get with Usyk both inside and outside the ring but his boxing achievements are simply incredible.
After winning gold at the 2012 Olympic Games, Usyk turned professional in 2013 and it took him under three years to become cruiserweight world champion. After winning one version of the title, he went on to completely unify the division and by 2018, he was the unified, undisputed cruiserweight champion. However, it was his title defences which really caught people’s attention.
Dominant wins in Latvia and America were followed by an impressive victory over Murat Gassiev in Russia and finally a conclusive knockout victory over Tony Bellew in Manchester. Not only was Usyk proving he was the best cruiserweight in the world, but he was putting himself in the away corner. Not only was he proving he was the best cruiserweight in the world, but he was also cementing himself as one of the best fighters in the world. Period.
Following his win over Bellew, Usyk moved up to heavyweight and plans to take over a second weight division. Two quickfire wins have helped the Ukrainian settle into the weight division and although those wins were over opponents who aren’t as formidable as Anthony Joshua, the enigmatic challenger has shown enough to suggest he is a real force at heavyweight.
This is as good as the heavyweight division gets. Two former Olympic champions and two athletes at the absolute peak of their powers. It is important to not underestimate either man here as no result would be a great surprise but what is important is that whoever wins gets maximum credit for the victory.
The opening odds make Joshua a favourite (2/5) and (9/4) for Oleksandr Usyk. Joshua certainly holds physical advantages which makes him favourite but stylistically, Usyk could be all wrong for the Brit and that price of (9/4) could look very generous come Sunday morning.
Many believe this is a matchup between a boxer and a puncher but it is so much more than that. Joshua is not just a knockout artist and Usyk is not just a pure boxer. Both men can end this one inside the distance and they both can box at an extremely high level.
When you break everything down you cannot get away from the value in Usyk at 9/4. The Ukrainian has the mental toughness and the style to cause Joshua endless problems this weekend and the price is simply too big to ignore. He has also shown he can carry power and stamina into the later rounds and with question marks around the gas tank of Anthony Joshua, a TKO/KO victory for Usyk in rounds 7-12 at (12/1) is worth some consideration.
The undercard is not hugely inspiring but it does feature former super middleweight world champion Callum Smith in his first fight at light heavyweight. The Liverpudlian returns following his defeat to Canelo Alvarez and takes on Lenin Castillo who has been the distance with several big names in the division. Castillo should offer a stubborn test for Smith who is hoping a win can set him on the road to becoming a two-weight world champion.
WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie also takes on his mandatory challenger Dilan Prasovic. Okolie is going from strength to strength under the guidance of Shane McGuigan and he should have enough ability to get rid of Prasovic who is undefeated but has been carefully matched so far in his career.
Another fight on the card that could catch fire is between Florian Marku and Maxim Prodan at welterweight. These two fighters have provided the bad blood during fight week and regularly went back and forth despite some obvious language barriers. This fight is scheduled for ten rounds and with Marku failing weight at Friday’s weigh in, it has now become a very interesting encounter.
Prodan is a fighter that has built up a very solid record of 19-0-1 (15KO) and he starts this one 5/1 underdog which is slightly disrespectful to his skillset. Marku is a fighter that has a lot of hype but hasn’t overly impressed in recent fights. Expect this to be a close, rugged affair and it may need the help of the ringside judges. (5/6) for the fight to go the distance is a good bet.
BACK Oleksandr Usyk to win 2pts at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
BACK Oleksandr Usyk to win in rounds 7-12 1pt at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
BACK Okolie to win in rounds 4-6 1pt at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
BACK Marku v Prodan fight to go the distance 3pts at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
⚠️ Stakes advised on a scale of 0-10 points depending on confidence from our preview team
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