Usyk vs Joshua: How fighters compare ahead of potential mouthwatering heavyweight world-title match-up07/02/2021
ANTHONY JOSHUA is faced with yet hurdle in his race to become undisputed heavyweight king.
Joshua and Tyson Fury had agreed terms for the first-ever, four-belt heavyweight unification.
But Fury, 32, was unsuccessful in his attempts to walk away from his contracted trilogy bout with Deontay Wilder, 35.
After Wilder was awarded the right to an immediate rematch against Fury, AJ was ordered by the WBO to defend his titles against mandatory challenger Usyk, 34.
With his mega-fight with Fury hanging in the balance, SunSport compares Joshua and Usyk ahead of a potential heavyweight headliner in September.
Joshua, who turned pro a year after winning gold at the London 2012 Olympics, was an unstoppable force 22 fights into his run.
With unified belts and wins over Dillian Whyte, Wladimir Klitschko, Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin, he was considered the No1 heavyweight.
But suddenly he was left fighting for his career after suffering a shock upset against Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019.
Joshua would go on to slim down and switch tactics as he enacted revenge on Ruiz, reclaiming his trio of world titles.
It was a sign of AJ's versatility in the ring, as he ditched his exciting, ruthless and aggressive style to outbox his opponent at range.
Joshua has shown throughout his career that he is comfortable both at mid-range and on the inside, where he can use his physicality and speed.
But outthinking Ruiz on the back foot added a new element to AJ's game, developing into a more well-rounded fighter, despite twice being crowned world champion.
Joshua has gone down in two fights, firstly against Klitschko and then FOUR times in his Ruiz loss, later showing vulnerability when taking one in his rematch win over the Mexican-American.
He returned to the ring after a year out in December and knocked out Kubrat Pulev in round nine.
Joshua thought it had set him up with Battle of Britain against Fury – only to be pegged back once more after a breakdown in negotiations.
The southpaw star excelled as an amateur, winning European, world and Olympic gold, finishing his career in the unpaid ranks with 335−15 record.
Usyk made his pro debut in 2013 and like his friend and countrymen Vasyl Lomachenko – who won a world title in his THIRD fight – the cruiserweight set out to win belts early.
Within ten bouts he won the WBO title, beating Krzysztof Glowacki on points.
He would make just two successful defences – against Thabiso Mchunu and then Michael Hunter – before entering the World Boxing Super Series tournament.
By the end of the three-round knockout competition, Usyk had beaten Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev to walk away with the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO undisputed titles.
He defended them just once, in Manchester as he KO'd Tony Bellew in round eight before marking his move up to heavyweight.
Usyk beat Chazz Witherspoon by stoppage after seven rounds last year, but failed to make a mega impact as he piled on the pounds.
Per the WBO's rules, after the champion stepped up, he was immediately put in the mandatory position.
And Usyk made another mark in the blue ribbon division after beating Dereck Chisora on points.
Chisora did have early success as his weight advantage showed putting Usyk under real adversity at times.
The glaring difference between the two is size, with Joshua due to outweigh Usyk by around three stone.
Usyk appeared uncomfortable at stages against Chisora, as he was backed up and tagged with shots over the top.
But he settled into the fight once his opponent tired and he was allowed to settle into a rhythm.
Joshua does have the footwork and power to put it on Usyk and maintain that pressure, whereas Chisora couldn't.
His amateur pedigree also gives him the tools to stand and trade if he needs to, instead of relying on pressure and power punches.
Usyk will find it hard to dance around AJ, who is strong on the inside and has the reach advantage.
If he can maintain the front-foot pressure and punch in numbers, Usyk could find himself overwhelmed.
Usyk's best chance is to take the fight down the stretch and hope AJ tires, like he did against Klitschko.
But Joshua has since improved and developed his style that remains sustainable further into the fight.
Judging on what Chisora could do, AJ can be confident in closing Usyk down and overpowering him to win by stoppage.
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