Matchroom: Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk Predictions
After years of promotional nightmares, contract disputes and location squabbles stopping the Fury AJ mega fight, the fans are rightfully exhausted. Defending this beautiful sport has started to wear, throwing back the love and time that boxing public have relentlessly invested. Alas, Joshua vs Usyk is probably the best match-up the Heavyweight can offer outside of a certain Gypsy King or Bronze Bomber. The arguable Cruiserweight GOAT is undefeated so far in his ventures into the Heavyweight division. Fighting away in the UK is a thankless task for a technical magician, don’t be surprised if a wonderful match-up ends with a disgraceful result to once again shaft all involved.
Failed to catch the action from the last UFC? No worries. Peep our preview from last week via Triller: Holyfield vs Belfort. Prefer a review of the event to jog the memory?
Unconvinced by Pintsized’s mystical predicting powers? Take a look at our prediction success last month detailed in Boxing Predictions Results: August 2021.
Matchroom: Joshua vs Usyk
Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22KO) vs Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13KO)
WBA Super World Heavyweight Title
IBF World Heavyweight Title
WBO World Heavyweight Title
IBO World Heavyweight Title
In a sport where critics sit steadfastly at polar opposite extremes on judging a fighter, AJ unfortunately falls somewhere inbetween. Physically, Joshua is a powerhouse with lethal power throughout the fight. A questionable gas tank and static upper body leaves him stranded on the centre line though. Technically, AJ is capable of adhering to masterful gameplans and making the most of his kit. It’s never been clearer than the Ruiz rematch where Joshua sat the tubby Mexican on the end of his jab, practically running off the ropes to reposition if his jab missed the mark. Without the jab, however, Joshua is lost – lacking both traps and confidence to draw opponents onto his powerful counters.
A lot has been made about the weight differential in the lead-up to this scrap. Usyk is a career Cruiserweight, and AJ is naturally the larger physical specimen, but their respective styles somewhat negate the weight. Usyk was never planning to transfer his power up to the premier weight class and knock the top 200+lbers over. Yes AJ can crack harder than Gassiev, but AJ has never shown willingness to wrap up opponents and weigh on them. Joshua’s horror at any notion of in-fighting, and eventual clinching, takes away the oppressive aspect of the extra weight.
I expect AJ to take control of the first half of the fight. Joshua has to set the pace early while Usyk takes the first quarter of the fight making his infamous reads. AJ isn’t a fighter who can adjust on the fly, he needs to hit the ground running with a stellar game plan. If we’re to guess Joshua’s approach, it’ll be controlled volume at the start with the aim of earning Usyk’s respect early through power. The body jab and powerful hooks to the body to prevent Usyk’s lateral movement will create questions for the Ukrainian and delay his jab rhythm. By the mid-point, when Usyk is flowing freely and likely winning the jabbing battle, AJ will move back to 2-3 shot bursts littered throughout long periods of inactivity. To secure enough early rounds and bank on Usyk lacking the firepower to put him away late, AJ can feel comfortable with home town scorecards.
Ah the crafty old Ukrainian magician is up against it on Saturday night. Pound for pound, Usyk is clearly on another level in terms of technicals and ringcraft. That doesn’t always equate to a confirmed victory, though. Despite all the angles, measurements and calculations – there are chinks in the Ukranian’s armour. Least not his exposed mid-rift, which with enough attention, could stop Usyk’s liquid movement.
Usyk needs to be active from the opening bell on Saturday night. Unravelling AJ mentally is a solid approach, and the easiest avenue is by stripping the giant of his jab. Joshua is most comfortable when he can prod with the jab and create a corridor of space between himself and an opponent. Usyk’s flashy feints and faster hand speed can put Joshua into immediate pressure. It wouldn’t be wise to trade jabs for the full twelve rounds, but by preventing AJ setting the range early, Usyk can force AJ to deviate from his game plan.
One issue with the Chirsora fight was the ease in which he was closed off at times. Perhaps Usyk underestimated the craftsmanship of a wily, experienced foe, but it is more likely that the size differential swayed Usyk’s positioning. Of course, Chisora’s swarming aggression created more openings than Joshua’s more tentative approach will allow. With such a shallow heavyweight tape to choose though, it is still food for thought.
Predicted Result: Joshua Decision
I expect AJ to take control of the first half of the fight. Joshua has to set the pace early while Usyk coasts the first couple of rounds making his infamous reads. AJ isn’t a fighter who can adjust on the fly, he needs to hit the ground running with a stellar game plan. The body jab and powerful hooks to the body to prevent Usyk’s lateral movement will create questions for the Ukrainian and delay his jab rhythm. By securing enough early rounds and banking on Usyk lacking the firepower to put him away late, AJ can feel comfortable with home town scorecards.
Of course, Usyk could always unravel a mentally fragile AJ. The easiest avenue would be to strip the giant of his jab. Joshua is most comfortable when he can prod with the jab and create a corridor of space between himself and an opponent. Usyk’s flashy feints and faster hand speed can put Joshua into immediate pressure. It wouldn’t be wise to trade jabs for the full twelve rounds, but by preventing AJ setting the range early, Usyk can force AJ to deviate from his game plan. Difficult to see Usyk getting the nod on UK scorecards regardless of the how the fight goes, though.
Result: Usyk def. Joshua // Decision (unanimous – 113-115, 112-116, 112-117)
Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Matchroom: Joshua vs Usyk
Lawrence Okolie (16-0, 13KO) vs Dilan Prasovic (15-0, 12KO)
WBO World Cruiserweight Title
You’re only as good as your last fight. Okolie’s early career was plagued with snooze fest decisions. Tentative boxing on the outside, awkward attempts to control the range and smothering any opponent foolish enough to try and close the distance – Okolie’s style was violent anti-fan friendly. The physical gifts and frame were laid out for a potential superstar, though, and Okolie made good on his promise last time out. Icing a rugged Glowacki last time out, The Sauce appears to have hit the next level since linking up with trainer, Shane McGuigan.
Okolie may be relatively inexperienced, and this is a contentious hill to die on, but I cannot see anyone at Cruiserweight threatening him. Okolie’s length is freakish, opponents are immediately at a disadvantage against a giant who is more than willing to stink out the joint rather than deviate from his advantages. The Brit seems to have found newfound power on his climb to the WBO world title. Only Mairis Briedis poses a genuine threat to Okolie, but he hasn’t looked the same fighter since his defeat to Usyk. Maybe Usyk to move down to Cruiser to recollect his belts if he falls to Joshua?
Fresh-faced Montenegran, Dilan Prasovic, isn’t a stellar opponent but at least he has a decent amateur pedigree – totalling over 100 fights. I’m not sure what he can offer that Okolie won’t dispatch relatively early, though. Low hands while standing on the outside would be fine against anyone other than Okolie. The Brit could still be in the changing room and his Mr Tickle length arms could touch Prasovic’s chin. There is no doubt that Prasovic will switch off momentarily, believing he is outside of striking distance, and have his chin checked immediately.
Prasovic’s rhythmic bouncing footwork may pose Okolie a few problems. The prospect tends to thrive in skirmishes in which he can fluidly transition between offensive and defensive movement. Unfortunately for Prasovic, as he will sadly find out, the big sweaty hug machine will spoil any work he attempts on the inside. Edin Puhalo, a bang average Cruiserweight, was able to freely snap Prasovic into a clinch. This is a stylistic nightmare, and if Okolie cannot decisively beat Prasovic, something went wrong.
Predicted Result: Okolie TKO Round 5
The Sauce appears to have hit the next level since linking up with trainer, Shane McGuigan. Okolie’s length is freakish, opponents are immediately at a disadvantage against a giant who is more than willing to stink out the joint rather than deviate from his advantages. Moreover, the Brit seems to have found newfound power on his climb to the WBO world title. Poor old Prosovic faces a stylistic nightmare on Saturday. Low hands while standing on the outside would be fine against anyone other Okolie – he will switch off and have his chin quickly checked. Worse yet, Edin Puhalo, a bang average Cruiserweight, was able to freely snap Prasovic into a clinch. Any advantage Prasovic has on the inside will be spoiled immediately.
Result: Okolie def. Prasovic // KO Round 3 1:57
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌
Matchroom: Joshua vs Usyk
Rest of the Card
Callum Smith (27-1, 19KO) vs Lenin Castillo (21-3-1, 16KO)
Light Heavyweight (175)
After recovering from a twelve-round beatdown to Canelo, Callum Smith has finally made the move up to Light Heavyweight. It’s yet to be seen if this is the right call, his power was hardly fearsome at Super Middleweight. Moreover, the huge height advantage he enjoyed at 168 will be somewhat nullified with the bigger boys at LHW. Smith’s cracking left hook will remain a problem for anyone in the heavier weight division, however.
Perhaps this is massively reactionary, but Smith looked amateur against Canelo. The P4P number one does tend to have that effect on fighters, but Smith looked uninspired. Brother, Liam, at least a real attempt at bringing the fight to Canelo in his losing effort. Smith clearly has a strong chin and huge heart, but his technical ceiling was evident at the start of the year.
Lenin Castillo has been around the sport for a long time. Well over a decade into his professional career, Castillo has flip-flopped around the heavier divisions. Whenever has made a trip outside of his native Dominican Republic to face a prospect, he has been comfortably dispatched on the scorecards.
The thirty-three-year-old is a tough, durable old nut to crack but he is athletically limited. Dmitry Bivol walked down Castillo with ease, probing with nothing more than a simple jab. Castillo’s unwillingness to close the distance, more than happy to bide his time on the back-foot before exploding into short bursts, sees him outclassed by the superior athletes. Smith isn’t blessed with the fastest hands, but he will have a reach and height advantage on the night which will ensure he will dominate the fight on the outside.
Predicted Result: Smith Decision
After recovering from a twelve-round beatdown to Canelo, Callum Smith has finally made the move up to Light Heavyweight. It’s yet to be seen if this is the right call, his power was hardly fearsome at Super Middleweight. Smith’s cracking left hook will remain a problem for anyone in the heavier weight division, however. Lenin Castillo is a tough, durable old nut to crack but he is athletically limited. The Dominican’s unwillingness to close the distance, happily biding his time on the back-foot before exploding into short bursts, sees him outclassed by stronger tacticians. Smith’s height and reach advantage should make this less than competitive.
Result: Smith def. Castillo // TKO Round 2 0:55
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Maxim Prodan (19-0-1, 15KO) vs Florian Marku (8-0-1, 6KO)
IBF International Welterweight Title
University-educated, Maxim Prodan, represents a slight step-up in quality for Florian Marku. The Ukrainian was not only a decent amateur, winning 50 of his 60 total bouts, but he has made a decent go at the pro’s so far. One issue, of course, has been Prodan’s unwillingness to fight outside of Italy – his country of residence.
There is reason to worry that Prodan’s record could somewhat be padded. Tony Dixon isn’t the strongest fighter, and even with a career performance, he never should have had a chance of victory over Prodan. Prodan was dragged into a back-and-forth war with a debatable decision finally sliding his way. Moreover, last time out against the domestic at best, Nicola Cristofori, Prodan was out-classed for large periods during the fight. Preferring to throw a looping left hook in absence of a jab, Prodan’s stalking forward movement will see him walking onto Marku’s power.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect Marku to walk through Rylan Charlton in the manner that he did. While I expected a tight result, Marku appeared levels ahead of his domestic counterpart. Perhaps the jump in weight may have hampered Charlton, but that isn’t to take away from a top performance by Marku. Slick defensive footwork, regular triple jabs to keep himself active, and perfect timing on hard counters – Marku has taken to boxing with rapid speed.
There is still question marks over Marku’s gas tank, yet this mostly depends on the style of fight Marku wishes to pursue. In his early career, he had no regard for the cans he crushed. Against Charlton, Marku fought more conservatively early doors and picked hurtful single shots. Only by the mid-point did Marku begin to piece apart from the Brit and look to let loose his trademark hybrid power punching/volume. Expecting Marku to let Prodan walk onto his power, with the Ukrainian unable to cope with the first live body of his career.
Predicted Result: Marku TKO Round 4
University-educated, Maxim Prodan, represents a slight step-up in quality for Florian Marku. While his professional career has been somewhat ugly, padded in areas, the Ukrainian has a solid amateur background – winning 50 of his 60 total bouts. The issue is Prodan’s style. referring to throw a looping left hook in absence of a jab, Prodan’s stalking forward movement will see him walking onto Marku’s power. Marku was far more reserved during the opening rounds against Rylan Charlton, picking hard single shot counters while keeping busy with a triple jab. Expecting Marku to let Prodan walk onto his power, with the Ukrainian unable to cope with the first live body of his career.
Result: Marku def. Prodan // Decision (split – 91-99, 96-94, 97-93)
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Campbell Hatton (3-0) vs Sonni Martinez (2-4)
Well, despite making only a light splash in his professional career, Matchroom is sticking with the Campbell Hatton hype train. At just twenty years old, the family name holds weight as we are forced to watch a green fighter learn the ropes. There won’t be any huge jump in competition levels anytime soon. Still, in just over half a year, Hatton is already shaping into a more composed professional. Pawing with his lead hand to establish distance, Hatton has been showing greater defensive footwork rather than lingering after throwing his combination. Hopefully, the power is found soon, though, otherwise, Hatton will need to make huge changes to his aggressive brawling style.
Uruguayan, Sonni Martinez, is a domestic journeyman in the Spanish ranks. Martinez is a back-foot counter puncher without the timing or speed to make it work. He is a game opponent and will make Hatton work for his victory, but he lacks any sort of power to trouble the Mancunian.
Predicted Result: Hatton Decision
Well, despite making only a light splash in his professional career, Matchroom is sticking with the Campbell Hatton hype train. To be fair, it’s only been half a year since his debut and he is already shaping into a more composed professional. Pawing with his lead hand to establish distance, Hatton also no longer lingers after throwing his combinations. Sonni Martinez is a domestic journeyman hailing from the Spanish scene but he is game who will make Hatton work for his victory. Martinez’s rangey counter-punching doesn’t suit his frame, lack of speed or timing issues.
Result: Hatton def. Martinez // Decision (referee’s scorecard – 58-57)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Matchroom: Joshua vs Usyk
2021 Boxing Season
Takeaway comments: No need to be so reactive. Usyk vs Joshua was a competitive main event, the rematch will be class.
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