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Anthony Joshua to defend his heavyweight titles against Oleksandr Usyk

It has been a difficult 12 months for sport due to the coronavirus emergency and resulting lockdowns that have kept fans locked out of most stadiums for over a year. Boxing hasn’t been able to avoid damage, but the noble art is fighting back. Fight fans have some thrilling contents to look forward to, and another was added to the schedule recently. World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will face former cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk in London on September 25 in London.

The stunning new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will provide the backdrop for an evening of action promoted by Eddie Hearn for Matchroom Boxing. The fight has been agreed upon, both men have signed the paperwork to make it happen, training has begun, and fans can start buying tickets or planning to follow the action live on TV.

Major online sports betting sites are also involved in the early exchanges, with Vegas sportsbooks offering odds on the winner. Traders make Joshua favourite, but the champion can’t afford to take his opponent lightly, and there will be plenty of attention in the betting on Usyk causing an upset.

 

“Anthony Joshua” by Matchroom Boxing is licensed under CC BY 3.0

AJ backed by a capacity crowd

Joshua enters the bout as the defending champion and, with a capacity crowd cheering him on. AJ is the current keeper of the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts, with the only one missing from his collection being the WBC strap. That is held by rival and fellow Briton Tyson Fury, who is set to defend against former champion Deontay Wilder in America later this year. The clash should have taken place this summer but was postponed following a COVID outbreak in the Team Fury camp.

Anthony’s professional boxing CV details 24 wins against one defeat, with 22 of his victories coming by way of knockout. The only two men to take him the distance so far have been Joe Parker and Andy Ruiz. The latter was a points win for AJ over the American after Ruiz shocked the world by knocking Joshua out in New York in the bout before. That seventh-round stoppage at Madison Square Gardens in 2019 remains one of the biggest boxing shocks in living memory, ranking alongside Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas.

Joshua was last seen in action at Wembley Arena in December of last year when dealing with Kubrat Pulev, getting rid of the Romanian inside nine rounds. The KO/TKO win over Pulev was expected, but if Joshua can do something similar against Usyk, it would send out a message of intent to rival Fury and would also rank as the biggest win of his career.

If Joshua is to get the fight he wants and finally share a ring with Fury in a winner takes all unification, but he simply has to win here. The result is more important than the performance. This is a win at all costs fight, but it’s a serious step up in grade from the men he has faced in each of his last three bouts.

 

“Oleksandr Usyk” by C4TV is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Usyk shouldn’t be taken lightly

Most opponents of Joshua are written off by the public, pundits and sports betting traders before a punch has been thrown, but that’s not the case with Usyk. The Ukrainian is an unbeaten fighter and former ruler of the cruiserweight division, having unified the titles. He now aims to do something a fighter hasn’t achieved since David Haye, win cruiserweight titles, then move up to win heavyweight belts. Only two fighters have achieved this, Haye and Evander Holyfield. Will Usyk join that exclusive club?

He is the away fighter, but this isn’t his first trip to England, and he has already built up a solid fan base in the UK. Oleksandr was last in action when beating Derek Chisora on points at Wembley Arena last October. He also knocked out Tony Bellew in Manchester for the cruiserweight world titles in 2018.

His professional boxing record ahead of this shot at making history reads 18 wins from as many contests, with 13 coming by way of knockout. He is a hard-hitting but technically gifted southpaw who won’t be bullied by the champion.  This promises to be a close contest and the toughest night of both Usyk and Joshua’s career.

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