With the megafight between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium approaching later this month, South West Londoner spoke to local boxing experts to analyse the bout.
Both fighters are in their prime and have impressive records against top opponents, with Joshua, 31, being 24-1 (22 KOs, 5 first round KOs), and Usyk, 34, being 18-0 (13 KOs).
There is a considerable discrepancy, however, in the size of the boxers, as Joshua stands at 6’6” and weighed in at 109.2 kg in his last fight, whereas Usyk is three inches shorter and will probably weigh in at least 12 kg lighter.
Questions remain as to whether Usyk is big and powerful enough to contend with world class heavyweights, after having moved up from cruiserweight in 2019, especially as Derek Chisora, 37, seemed to outmuscle him in the early rounds of their last fight.
There is no question, however, about Usyk’s levels of skill and experience, as he had an extensive amateur career with 350 bouts (335-15) compared to Joshua’s 51 (48-3).
Usyk is also a southpaw, which could cause problems for Joshua, who has not fought many southpaws.
Ed Chattey, 26, a boxer and coach at Cuban Boxing Academy, an amateur boxing club in North Kensington, said: “They’re both in their prime. If anyone’s more in their prime it’s probably Joshua, but heavyweights can box for a long time, 34 is not too old at all.
“Size does give Joshua an advantage if it gets into an exchange and there’s a firefight. But size can also make Joshua less mobile, and Usyk can use his feet better, be lighter and more agile, so it’s not all down to size.
“It depends on how you box – with Ruiz the second time it was totally different to the first fight. In the first one Joshua didn’t use his height in the right way and then in the next fight he did, and Ruiz couldn’t get near him.
“If you box the right way it should benefit you, being taller. Most of his opponents apart from Klitschko have been shorter than him, Parker, Takam, Pulev, they have all been shorter, so this is not new to him.
“Joshua carries a lot more power than Usyk and I think Joshua has to try and knock him out, because he’s not going to out-box Usyk.
“Usyk has a lot more amateur experience and he achieved a lot more in amateur boxing. He’s just had more fights and I think that he moves better and is the better boxer.”
Chattey added: “Joshua’s biggest advantage is probably his punch power. If they get into an exchange and they catch each other Joshua can knock Usyk out cold, whereas I don’t know if Usyk carries that sort of power at heavyweight level.
“But I don’t know what Joshua’s like against southpaws, he hasn’t fought many. There was Charles Martin, but he got him out of there early. That could be difficult for him, so I think it’s a really great fight.
“Usyk’s biggest advantage is that he’s a better boxer, a very clever boxer. He almost doesn’t move like a heavyweight, he moves like a really classy middleweight or light heavyweight. His biggest disadvantage is the fact that Joshua could out-gun and out-power him.
“I think that Joshua will knock him out in the ninth round. I think it will be later on in the fight when Usyk tires a bit and maybe his legs won’t get him out of trouble like they will in the beginning of the fight.”
Sid Khan, 60, has been head coach at Earlsfield Amateur Boxing Club in Wandsworth for nearly 40 years, has met Joshua, and knows his old amateur trainer at Finchley Boxing Club.
He said: “I don’t think the difference in reach comes into it because Usyk is quite skilful, he has a lot of pedigree as an amateur, he beat Joe Joyce. But the reason he’s come up a weight is that the heavyweight is ‘the thing’.”
In 2013, Usyk beat Joyce, 35, a boxer with similar physical attributes to Joshua, in an amateur heavyweight bout in the World Series of Boxing.
This could be an indication that Usyk can compete with larger, world-class boxers such as Joshua.
Khan believes, however, that Joyce’s loss in 2013 was at least in part due to his lack of opportunity to train with world class southpaw heavyweights in the build-up to the fight, owing to the constraints of amateur boxing.
He added that Joshua will have had far more practice against southpaws than Joyce had, and that this should prepare him to perform better against Usyk. Nonetheless, Khan stressed that Usyk is a very tough opponent.
He said: “If you look at the odds- at the moment they’re not giving Usyk a chance of beating Joshua, but Usyk is a knockout merchant, I definitely wouldn’t write him off. He’s an awkward southpaw and he’s gifted. He sets them up with combinations and then takes them out, whereas Joshua can take them out with one shot if he hits them on the chin.
“Sometimes you can go wrong if you take a boxer into the wrong weight category, but these guys are both so skilful, if anything Usyk is more skilful than Joshua. But Joshua can knock people out with both hands.
“I think AJ’s just going to go for it, I don’t think it will go the twelve rounds. Usyk will box on his back foot and I think AJ will just cut the ring down and if Usyk makes a mistake AJ will take him out.
“But that could happen the other way round as well because AJ has a bad habit of falling asleep sometimes, he drops his hands and if Usyk catches him he won’t let him off the hook.
“Usyk’s advantage is that he’s a southpaw and he’s very very skilful. He’s a natural sportsman, and he has always done boxing.
“I personally think AJ is going to stop him, but I don’t know what round. I think its 60-40 for Joshua.”
Joshua will face Usyk to defend his world titles on 25 September.
Featured image: Chattey sparring in Cuban Boxing Academy