Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua’s headline fights of 2021 and 2022 involved the pair going head-to-head in the ring following years of keen anticipation. Overall, Usyk got the better of the English fighter in both bouts, first via unanimous decision, and by a split points decision in the rematch.
Joshua lost three heavyweight titles due to his defeat in the first fight. The failed attempt at redemption in the rematch has also brought him to a crossroads in his career. Joshua must now look to build momentum through fights of a lower caliber if he is ever to earn a shot at becoming a world champion again.
Usyk’s career remains on the rise
Usyk, on the other hand, has reached an undeniable peak in his boxing career. He expressed a desire to put all his belts on the line following his second victory over Joshua. Also, there were rumors of a potential title fight with WBC heavyweight title holder Tyson Fury, but a deal couldn’t be agreed in order for the fight to take place.
Usyk is hungry to become the undisputed champion, but the fact he holds four belts is a sign of the strong position he is in regardless. The Ukrainian is a huge favorite to defend his titles following his upcoming fight against Daniel Dubois in August.
Oleksandr Usyk playing basketball in training camp for the Daniel Dubois fight on Aug 26th… pic.twitter.com/ZQWbnOtYOy— Michael Benson (@MichaelBensonn) July 20, 2023
Daniel Dubois will challenge Usyk in the Stadion Wroclaw with all four of the current champion’s belts being placed on the line. Despite being the younger contender at the ripe age of 25, according to the outright boxing markets, 36-year-old Usyk is the massive favorite. Usyk enters this fight with a price of -1000 being offered by franchises like bet365, which highlights that there’s a clear expectation Usyk will comfortably defeat Dubois. This will make it three consecutive years of achieving victory over British fighters.
Dubois is a strong up-and-coming British fighter, but Usyk is predicted to have too much for the developing fighter. The bout against Dubois should simply present itself as a stop-gap for Usyk – he should solidify his status as the holder of four world titles, prior to potentially finally fighting Fury to become undisputed next year.
Truthfully, there’s little pressure on Usyk as he has made the heavyweight division his own. He’s breezed past Derek Chisora before putting a question mark over Joshua’s long-term career in the past few years.
Usyk could potentially become a quintuple champion
The likely scenario is that Usyk enters 2024 after successfully defending his belts on two occasions. He will certainly have written himself into history as one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time. But the potential to become a quintuple champion could better everything he has achieved so far.
The likelihood of a willing contender finding a way to achieve victory against Usyk is incredibly low. But if Fury was willing to go all in, the pair could produce possibly the most anticipated title fight of all time. A winner takes all situation could occur – Usyk or Fury could become the undisputed heavyweight title holder of all five belts.
There are still many questions at this point. Will a Usyk-Fury fight really ever take place? And, of course, could Usyk really take the Gypsy King down? Ultimately, Usyk has earned himself a huge opportunity over the last few years by asserting himself in the position that many believed Joshua would assume.
Joshua’s road to redemption
There’s no doubting Joshua’s talent, but does he have the motivation and determination to fight his way back to the peak of the heavyweight division?
Heading into 2021, Joshua looked in a world of his own in the division – flash forward to 2023 and Usyk has taken his place. The consecutive defeats to the Ukrainian fighter have hurt the Englishman’s reputation greatly. He is, of course, still seen as one of the greatest British boxers of all time, but the manner in which he was defeated twice by a veteran in Usyk has cast doubts over whether he can seriously compete for world title belts in the future.
Joshua, now aged 33, may have already passed his peak, and time is running out for him to redeem himself and rise back up the heavyweight ladder. He’ll have to produce a string of immaculate performances in upcoming exhibition matches before he can think of earning a chance at reclaiming his belts once more.
Joshua vs Whyte
Joshua’s first fight since the second Usyk defeat was against Jermaine Franklin Jr, whom he beat via unanimous decision in London. Up next comes Dillian Whyte, who also comes into the fight off the back of a victory over Franklin Jr last November.
Whyte, similarly to Joshua, has also endured a tough few years in his boxing career. Whyte failed in his attempt to claim Fury’s WBC belt in 2022, which has also left his career at a crossroads.
The reality is that the loser of the upcoming bout could well bow out of the sport: both have experienced significant declines in both their win percentages and their reputations in the past few years. The August fight will take place at the O2 arena, where a huge British audience could well witness the final chapter in one of the fighters’ careers.
The duo first met in 2015 at an event where much was on the line. Both fighters were undefeated in their careers up to that date. Joshua earned a technical knockout victory in the pair’s first meeting.
The win helped ignite Joshua’s career, as he secured victories against Wladimir Klitschko and Andy Ruiz in title fights of the following years. Upon defeating Whyte, Joshua’s potential was truly realized – he was seen to have the ability to conquer the heavyweight division for many years to come.
Joshua is in dire need of history repeating itself in the rematch. He must defeat Whyte for a second time if he is to keep his career truly alive. A victory could allow Joshua to build confidence again, however, Whyte will be no pushover, especially as he is fighting to keep his own career afloat.
It is to be a battle of two fallen giants and a question of who has the mentality to not only defeat their opponents but defeat the critics that have suggested their time as leading heavyweight fighters is over.
The Usyk-Joshua bouts of 2021 and 2022 have had hugely contrasting effects on both fighters. The Ukrainian has reached new heights in the sport and could go down in history as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Joshua, on the other hand, faces an uphill task simply to revive his career, and potentially earn a glimpse of a heavyweight title again.
Usyk’s career seems to be constantly on the up, while Joshua’s is lacking direction, and it is unclear what his next steps will be. But the result of the fight against Whyte could influence his options. The Ukrainian has provided the biggest stumbling block of Joshua’s career. The Englishman may prove to have been the catalyst for an unprecedented quintuple champion in heavyweight boxing.
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