A heavyweight rematch from one of the biggest fights of 2021 will take place Saturday in Saudi Arabia. Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua face off again for the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, IBO and The Ring heavyweight titles.
Joshua is a two-time heavyweight champion. Usyk is a former undisputed cruiserweight champion. The former was beaten by Usyk for the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in England. Now, Joshua returns to Saudi Arabia, where he reclaimed the titles against Andy Ruiz Jr. in December 2019 after his upset loss against the Mexican star a few months earlier.
Can Joshua repeat history in Saudi Arabia? What mindset will Usyk be in just a few months after representing Ukraine against Russian aggression? With the news of Tyson Fury’s recent retirement, how will that affect the division?
The Sporting News’ Dom Farrell, Andreas Hale, Thomas Naghten, Raj Mahil, Albert Perez and Dan Yanofsky joined forces to discuss Usyk vs. Joshua 2.
MORE: Join DAZN to watch Usyk vs. Joshua 2
Dom Farrell: What’s not to like? It is a contrast in styles. One man, arguably with his elite-level career on the line, against a future Hall of Famer in Usyk, who might end up viewed as one of the very best of his generation. Joshua has brought coach Robert Garcia into the mix and has promised to make it a very different fight from the first one. Back in Saudi Arabia, the scene of his Andy Ruiz Jr. revenge mission, Joshua has a much taller task on his hands this time. There are intriguing storylines at play, and I can’t wait for the first bell.
Andreas Hale: It’s heavyweight boxing, and it’s just so damn unpredictable. Even though Usyk dominated the first fight down the stretch, Joshua’s power can alter a fight at any given moment. They’ve already seen each other for 36 minutes, but what will be different this time?
Raj Mahil: Although the buildup has been far from normal because of several factors — the protracted announcement, the location, the broadcast fiasco — there is no doubt that this is a hugely exciting fight. It feels absolutely pivotal for Anthony Joshua’s career. Everything is on the line.
The Andy Ruiz loss could be chalked up as “one of those nights” in heavyweight boxing, where the perfect punch lands and changes everything. It was an underdog story for the ages, and (although Joshua, to his credit, didn’t make any himself), there were viable excuses in the late change of opponent and first camp away from home. With Usyk, none of that was the case. It was simply the better boxer outclassing Joshua from the first bell to the last. So now, he needs to win back his reputation in addition to the belts.
The undisputed megafight of a generation against Tyson Fury awaits, too. The stakes have never been higher for Joshua. Add to that the backdrop of the plight of Ukraine for Usyk, plus the intrigue over whether new trainer Robert Garcia can reawaken the lion in Joshua and have him use his raw physical presence effectively, and this is simply a must-watch.
Thomas Naghten: This one is big. Really big. As impressive as Usyk’s performance was the first time, the stakes feel a little bit higher this time. Despite having watched these two fight already, many questions remain unanswered ahead of the rematch. We’ve seen Joshua bounce back from a loss to win a rematch with a new game plan, but Usyk and Andy Ruiz Jr. are very different propositions. Will AJ throw caution to the wind and back his power to catch Usyk out? Will the champ, complete with some added bulk, look to fight fire with fire? The considerable shadow of Tyson Fury continues to loom over the heavyweight division, adding yet another layer of intrigue to this bout.
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Albert Perez: The first match was an entertaining affair, so naturally the rematch has carried a lot of anticipation. With his wacky charisma and antics, Oleksandr Usyk has become a very likable figure in boxing. And, as far as Anthony Joshua, well, next to Canelo Alvarez, he is one of biggest names and most polarizing figures in boxing, so any of his fights will produce an automatic buzz. Also, this is another instance of the “best fighting the best,” something that has become a rare occurrence in today’s pugilistic landscape. Then there is the intrigue of “what can Joshua do different this time?”
Dan Yanofsky: A few months ago, it was questionable whether this fight was even going to happen. Now the pieces are in place for an epic matchup between two giants.
Joshua is back in Saudi Arabia, where he beat Andy Ruiz Jr. with ease to reclaim heavyweight gold. Usyk, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, is back after fighting for his home country against Russian aggression. Add the fact that the future of the WBC heavyweight title is in question because of Tyson Fury retiring, and there are a lot of storylines in place.
Can Joshua, with Robert Garcia now as his trainer, pull off another comeback for the ages and become a three-time champion? That would be the main story if it wasn’t for the unknown factor of Usyk. When heavyweight boxing is at its best, the fans come out. This should be no different.
Dom Farrell: All the talk beforehand is of Joshua fighting more aggressively, imposing his physicality and trying to beat up the smaller man. That’s all well and good, but against a fighter of such exceptional skill and boxing IQ, that makes you easier to hit. Also, Robert Garcia’s style tends to involve fighters being happy to take one to land a couple, absorbing shots on their arms and trusting that method of defense. That feels like an awful lot for Joshua to implement in one training camp. Expect him to have some success and maybe even rock or drop Usyk. But enough of the champion’s punches will keep getting through with his customary quality and accuracy. A short-left hook to the temple can short-circuit Joshua and end the argument.
Prediction: Usyk via TKO (Round 8)
Andreas Hale: My brain says Usyk by decision, but my heart says Joshua by knockout. I’m going with my heart here but not necessarily the method. After losing to Ruiz, Joshua made some adjustments in the rematch that led to a clean sweep. I think he’ll make another series of adjustments where his footwork will improve, the body work will make an appearance and that jab will be the foundation to hurting and dropping Usyk at some point in the fight. If Joshua is unable to stop Usyk early, I think he’ll manage to outpoint him in a close fight courtesy of a knockdown or two.
Prediction: Joshua via KO
Raj Mahil: It seems logic dictates an Usyk win. He’s a superior boxer and is now more comfortable than ever in his own skin as a heavyweight, bulking up.
But sometimes, in boxing, logic goes out of the window. As already discussed, Joshua simply needs this win more. The direction the rest of his professional life takes, in addition to his legacy, will be dictated in Jeddah. Garcia will help Joshua rediscover his old self — one that doesn’t try to outbox Usyk, but instead uses his own strengths by unleashing his knockout power and imposing his sheer physical presence on the smaller man. He can’t win if it goes all the way; Joshua must dictate the tempo from the off and drag Usyk to places he has yet to visit as a heavyweight.
Prediction: Joshua via TKO
Thomas Naghten: Joshua simply has to be more aggressive this time. We don’t expect him to come out hell for leather from the opening bell, but he’ll almost certainly look to make the fight more physical and exploit his size advantage. With that approach, however, comes risk. Usyk’s technical ability, head movement and sharp eye make him a terrible opponent to trade within the pocket. The final moments of the first fight could give us a clue as to how this one might go — Joshua, down on the scorecards, looked to press the action, only for Usyk to find his way through and tee off on the Englishman. We expect more of the same this time; Usyk gets the finish midway through the rounds.
Prediction: Usyk via TKO (Round 6)
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Albert Perez: One of the biggest takeaways from the first fight was how Usyk was able to bully Joshua and harass him against the ropes. AJ was simply not applying enough pressure. After the fight, Joshua said he was going back to the drawing board. And one of the most glaring changes he has made so far is a change in his corner. He replaced Rob McCracken with Robert Garcia, an offensive-minded trainer known to push his fighters greatly. Garcia has a history of getting guys back on track too. Former world champion Marcos Maidana was dejected and considered retirement after his loss to Devon Alexander in 2012. However, he turned to Garcia to lead his corner and went on a roll. Maidana defeated Adrien Broner for the WBA welterweight title, then took Mayweather to the limit, and then some, in their first encounter.
With the move to Garcia, it’s clear that AJ was looking for the type of mental push and game plan he could provide. We saw the best of Usyk in the first meeting. With Joshua in a much more aggressive mindset, the height and size disadvantage could very well be a factor this time.
Prediction: Joshua via unanimous decision
Dan Yanofsky: Unlike the Ruiz rematch, it would be hard to see Joshua getting the win against Usyk, who is just on another level. As a southpaw, fans got to see his aggressive side as he glided around the ring and easily took care of Joshua.
Observers have pointed out that Joshua has not been the same dominant fighter since the Wladimir Klitschko fight in 2017. He certainly looked off against Joseph Parker. Will Robert Garcia’s influence change any aspects of the bout? If so, that could result in a much more aggressive approach. Usyk, on the other hand, may continue what got him the win in the first fight. Expect the same result this time, except with just a little more fire from Joshua.
Prediction: Usyk via unanimous decision
Dom Farrell: In terms of the fight the whole world wants to see, and this is not meant as any kind of disrespect to an impeccable champion, another Usyk win will not be universally popular. That’s because Joshua will not be able to capitalize upon Tyson Fury’s incredibly unconvincing retirement and make the long-awaited British blockbuster happen.
If AJ loses again, there’s little argument for Fury to step back into the ring, and he seems to have no particular interest in taking on the complex puzzle of Usyk. Also, at 35, even in victory, it is questionable how much else Usyk needs to do. His legacy as a unified two-weight champion is secure. Fury and Deontay Wilder would be contrasting and intriguing assignments for him, but it’s hard to be entirely confident of either of those matches coming to fruition.
The Dillian Whyte rematch is probably always there for Joshua — either as the biggest fight available after a third career loss or a stadium-filling alternative if negotiations with Fury once again prove impenetrable. It should be noted that Filip Hrgovic is fighting Zhilei Zhang on the undercard to become the IBF mandatory. It would be a significant upset if the undefeated Croatian does not win handsomely.
Andreas Hale: Let’s be clear: Tyson Fury is a liar. He’s not retiring. He’s doing what he can to stay in the news cycle when it’s supposed to be about Anthony Joshua. And if Joshua wins? You better anticipate Fury posting a video on social media challenging Joshua. If Usyk wins, Fury is going to hold out and think of ways to make the fight one of the biggest that can be had in boxing. All paths lead to Fury, the king of the division at the moment.
MORE: Heading into Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2, what is Tyson Fury’s status as WBC heavyweight champion?
Raj Mahil: If Usyk wins, there is zero chance Fury takes that fight. There’s far too much jeopardy for the WBC champion and not enough money to be made. If one man in this division has a higher boxing IQ than Fury, it’s the Ukrainian mastermind.
Fury will take on his friend Derek Chisora in what should be an entertaining, money-spinning trilogy that won’t cause the Gypsy King any problems. Joshua will finally be able to face Deontay Wilder — a fight that will still be incredible but tinged with regret over that not happening while both men were undefeated and holding all the straps in 2018.
If Joshua wins, the Fury fight obviously has to happen. It will be the most lucrative showdown in the history of the sport. That is what we all want to see: two completely different characters, two generational talents, and the two men who dragged heavyweight boxing back into the limelight after a difficult decade.
Thomas Naghten: If Usyk wins, we’ll pretty much be where we were before the fight. Would Tyson Fury come out of retirement to take on the Ukrainian? Perhaps, but it feels a lot more likely that he’d be tempted by the big payday and prestige of a fight with Joshua were he to regain the belts. As for the rest of the division, the picture will become clearer over the next few months. Filip Hrgovic and Zhilei Zhang fight on the Usyk-Joshua undercard, Andy Ruiz and Luis Ortiz are due to meet early next month, Joseph Parker and Joe Joyce face off in late September, while it looks like Deontay Wilder will make his long-awaited return against Robert Helenius in October. Whether any of those contenders can position themselves for a shot at the champion remains to be seen. But if Usyk can come away with the victory yet again, his already significant legacy will grow even stronger.
Albert Perez: If Joshua wins, he will salvage his stock and set off a collision course with Tyson Fury for the biggest fight that could be made in boxing at this time. There’s no way Fury stays retired and rejects a historic megamatch, one that can amplify his legacy before he rides off into the sunset for real.
If Usyk wins, while it may not be as major as a fight with AJ, Fury could be drawn back for a chance to be the first fighter to unify all heavyweight titles from the four major governing bodies: WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO. With another victory over Joshua, Usyk would keep the WBA, IBF and WBO belts. As far as Fury, until further notice from the WBC, he still owns that belt. However, if Tyson stays retired, Deontay Wilder, providing he beats Robert Helenius in October, will become an intriguing opponent for the Ukrainian in a high-profile match.
Dan Yanofsky: The state of the heavyweight division can be described in one word: chaotic. If Usyk wins, expect more of that.
MORE: Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2 purse, salaries: How much money will they make for 2022 boxing rematch?
Tyson Fury recently announced his retirement, but the WBC is giving him until after the Usyk-Joshua fight to determine whether he will stay retired. If Usyk wins, it is uncertain whether Fury would want to go near the Ukrainian. If Joshua wins, we would be one step closer to the all-British bout for the undisputed heavyweight title fans have waited years for.
Outside of Fury, the heavyweight division has a lot of fighters waiting for their shot at gold. Filip Hrgovic and Zhilei Zhang will be fighting on the same card. Joe Joyce will also be fighting former champion Joseph Parker in September. If Fury stays retired, Joyce has requested his fight be for the WBC title. Let’s not forget former WBC champion Deontay Wilder (rumored to face Robert Helenius), Andy Ruiz Jr. and Luis Ortiz.
As you can see, the heavyweight division is already all over the place. At this point, the only person to really keep an eye on is Fury, the one who may be the key to where the division ends up after Aug. 20.
Usyk vs. Joshua 2 will take place on Aug. 20. The main card will start at 12 p.m. ET | 5 p.m. BST | 2 a.m. AEST. Usyk and Joshua should make their way to the ring around 5:15 p.m. ET | 10:15 p.m. BST | 7 a.m. AEST, depending on how long the undercard fights last.
In most countries globally, including the U.S., Canada and Australia, the fight will be streamed on DAZN.
However, Sky Sports Box Office won the rights to the fight in Joshua’s home territory (U.K.).
In the United States, Canada and Australia, and most territories globally, the fight will air on DAZN, but it will not be via PPV.
Fight fans in the UK will have to pay £26.95, a £2 increase on the price Sky Sports set for AJ and Usyk’s initial encounter.