Anthony Joshua was defeated in an exciting heavyweight contest that saw the breakthrough and coronation of Oleksandr Usyk. The skilled Ukrainian with an endless gas tank was able to outmaneuver and out punch the larger Joshua in a twelve round decision that stunned Joshua’s home crowd. The smaller man had Joshua pinned on the ropes in the final seconds of the fight and if there was any more time the fight likely would not have made the distance. On August 20th they are set to do it again in Saudi Arabia about eleven months after the initial contest. The delays stem mostly from the war in Ukraine and this will be a second time where Joshua looks to avenge a title defeat in the desert. Most boxing pundits and fans are not giving Joshua much of a shot and for good reason, the first fight was not close. Usyk showed a complete advantage in speed, skill, timing and conditioning. The big man Joshua was also unable to do any serious damage with his greater punching power. Can the second fight go any differently? Joshua has hired Robert Garcia to train him and with how bad the first fight went you would have to assume Joshua has room to improve where Usyk may have shown us everything he has.
In the first fight I scored the bout 117-111 or 9-3 but had it even or near even after six or seven rounds. Usyk came out fast and the two men set a very active pace for heavyweights in a very clean and foul/clinch free contest. There was a point in the middle of the fight where Joshua capitalized on a few patterns. Usyk took the fight to Joshua and exploited weaknesses in Joshua’s game and Joshua did not take full advantage of counter punch opportunities. There was a point in the middle of the fight where Joshua changed his pattern and threw a right hand when Usyk was expecting him to cover up and it scored. Joshua did this a few times and won a few rounds. He also won these rounds based on a tough body attack that he employed and visibly bothered Usyk to the body. A big criticism is that he did not get physical or use his size to wear down the smaller Usyk. He did try to box the boxer but I believe the sell out and go aggressive strategy is an issue as Joshua would tire faster and create more opportunities for counters. I felt the limiting the exchanges until he timed a big counter was a decent strategy and it had success but ultimately failed. However, I don’t think it failed because it was a poor strategy I think it failed because Usyk is just a better boxer with better conditioning.
Now Joshua made a massive transformation to beat Ruiz in the rematch by shedding a ton of weight and boxing a very mobile and light footed fight. That was aided in part by Ruiz showing up so fat and out of shape as he did. Usyk is unlikely to do something like that. Usyk is entering the ring after being in the war and not being able to train the way he would need to. Could all of this pose an issue, maybe. I pick Usyk again and possibly by stoppage.
Teofimo Lopez fights in two weeks in Las Vegas on ESPN. I watched last night’s episode of Max on Boxing where Max Kellerman interviewed the meteoric twenty four year old Brooklynite who briefly reigned supreme at lightweight. In October of 2020 he shocked number one pound for pound Vasiliy Lomachenko and in November of 2021 he was upset by proven by unheralded George Kambosos. As quickly as he had won four belts at 135lbs. he lost them and then disappeared for months. His brash attitude and that of his father rubbed plenty of fans the wrong way but he did win his titles on a highly rated ESPN broadcast so his popularity was sky high. He entered the Kambosos fight with a torn esophagus and did require elbow and wrist surgery after the fight. Was he compromised? Only Teofimo knows the answer to that question. Pedro Campa has a glossy record on paper without any names. He has been stopped once in his thirty six pro fights and will come forward and fight like Kambosos did. I expect Teofimo Lopez to knock this guy out. Even if he is going up in weight and had all of the surgeries and lay offs I expect him to crush a guy of this caliber. 140 lbs. is an interesting assignment with tough names there all eager to fight him. Kellerman asked Lopez about Ryan Garcia or Tank Davis at 140lbs. and he responded he will fight anyone and I believe it. He also mentioned he is here to entertain and most of all stays out of trouble outside the ring. Whether you like him or not I think that is at least commendable. With Josh Taylor likely to move up and Jack Catterall maybe being a one night fighter this division is wide open for business.