There is no doubting that former WBA, IBF and WBO champion Anthony Joshua is under an enormous amount of pressure in his upcoming rematch with Oleksandr Usyk. Having convincingly lost in their first match-up at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London last year, the Watford native’s career could very well hang in the balance if he were to lose again to the Ukrainian when they meet in Saudi Arabia on August 20th.
While that may sound somewhat hyperbolic, Joshua’s star power is heavily dependent on him being involved in monumental fights, and with an undisputed clash with Tyson Fury potentially on the horizon for the winner, it’s imperative that the 32-year-old makes the necessary changes if he wants to cause an upset in the online betting at sky.com and re-position himself at the summit of boxing’s glamour division.
The man affectionately known as “AJ” will most certainly need to be at the top of his game if he is to get his revenge, with his decision to try and outbox the boxer in their first fight playing right into his opponent’s hands. Despite being the taller man, Joshua found it difficult to judge the distance between he and Usyk, with the Ukrainian’s head movement and superior footwork seeming to puzzle the Brit more and more as the rounds progressed.
Usyk’s fast start and overall ring generalship ensured that Joshua could never really establish himself as the aggressor in the fight, something the Brit will need to rectify this time around if he has any chance of having his hand raised. Standing at 6’6 and possessing a muscle-bound 240 lb physique, the former super heavyweight Olympic gold medalist needs to impose his size, power and will from the opening bell.
Why Joshua didn’t utilise his physical advantages in his first outing against Usyk baffled pundits and fans alike – drawing many to question whether the impact of his knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. still lingers. Since that fateful night in New York City three years ago, it is visibly noticeable that the British heavyweight has become more calculated with his decisions surrounding when to trade in dangerous exchanges. While Joshua claims it’s as a result of his improvement in the sweet science – others feel it’s a tactic employed through apprehension.
Joshua has a golden opportunity to lay that theory to rest this month, with him guaranteeing a more aggressive approach when they face off at the Jeddah Superdome. He will also have a new team in his corner on this occasion, with AJ choosing to leave long-time trainer Rob McCracken and hire the services of Mexican-American Robert Garcia.
The choice to switch trainers stemmed in large part from the poor advice Joshua was receiving throughout the fight and in-between rounds. McCracken’s method of providing his fighter with encouraging feedback irrespective of who had the momentum confused AJ, who stated after the fight that he felt he was up on the scorecards when the final bell rang.
With a new and improved gameplan and a violent streak seemingly having been re-inserted into Joshua’s demeanor, he has a real chance of silencing his critics and becoming a three-time world heavyweight champion.
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