We gauge the pre-fight thoughts and predictions of some of the biggest names in boxing, as Oleksandr Usyk puts his heavyweight world titles on the line for the first time against Anthony Joshua in Jeddah.
Callum Smith (Former WBA super-middleweight world champion)
The first fight was a bit strange. We all wanted a bit more from Joshua, but he just stood back and tried to box him, which was obviously the plan early on. It didn’t work. This time I think we are going to see a different fight tactically – he will be more aggressive, but he is going to need to be smart in how he does that. He can’t be reckless and rush in, because that will play into Usyk’s hands. It is a blank page, it is a new fight, a new Usyk and a new Joshua – it will be a great fight. I think Joshua goes for him and could get rid of him in six. If he isn’t able to do that then I think Usyk takes it late on. As a Brit we should all want AJ to do it.
SugarHill Steward (Boxing trainer)
Do you know, I didn’t even watch the first fight. We were in training camp and the rest of the team watched the fight, but I wouldn’t watch it. I maybe some 30, close to 40 seconds and then went outside and started BBQing. I just kind of saw what was going to happen for the rest of the fight, and I just thought I am not going to sit here and watch this. I know what is going to happen. I am a grown man, and they were all of the couch talking and cheering, they were having arguments and bets, and I was like, ‘I’m not part of that – I am outside, I know what is going to happen.’ Let the children sit on the couch and play. All I will say is may the best man win.
Shane McGuigan (Boxing trainer)
Being aggressive could be really beneficial for AJ, but he also could walk on to something, so he has got to be very careful. But being on the front foot is, for me, the only chance he’s got of winning – he has to be aggressive and hopefully, in his eyes, he catches Usyk first. But listen, Usyk has enough power to knock heavyweights out, especially with the momentum of them walking on to him. He can generate power on the back foot, he can walk you on to shots and it’s the speed of his shots. In terms of a prediction, I’m not sure it is going to go the distance, and I’m not sure who is going to win!
Evander Holyfield (Four-time world heavyweight champion)
In the first fight you had the guy who was bigger against the little guy. The little guy out boxed the big guy, and the little guy won. Who has got the longer arms? Anthony Joshua right! So he now has to use what he has. Ultimately, in boxing, the jab is key. If you have a good jab then you have to use it. Throw the jab, the double jab, the one, two, three… combinations are important against the guys, like Usyk, who are really good.
Peter Fury (Boxing trainer)
You’d have to edge for Usyk, and the reason for that is because he landslided the first fight – it wasn’t even close! We all know what AJ needs to do, but the big question is, is he able to do it? Especially under the spotlight. Listen, I will give credit where credit is due, because he hasn’t cherry-picked somebody. He has always taken the bull by the horns, and taken fights. In boxing you can have a loss. To lose your zero is terrible for some people, but you can be 50-0 but have fought nobody. All Usyk did last time was exploit all of Joshua’s weaknesses. Can he improve, definitely and I think we will see a closer fight. It should be a 50/50, but for me, I just edge usyk.
Frazer Clarke (Unbeaten heavyweight contender)
It is going to be difficult to beat him because Usyk is very good, but I believe that if Anthony does what he is told to do then he will win it – he will knock him out. I’ve seen big improvements, I’ve seen a flip in mentality, I’ve seen new trainers come in with new ideas and I’ve seen him adhere to those ideas. Look, it is a tough fight, and no matter how you butter it up, it is going to be tough against Usyk, but I guarantee this is a closer fight than the first one – and, as I say, if he does what he is told to do, he will win it.
David Diamante (Ring announcer)
We are going to get fireworks – there is no doubt. Both of these guys are extremely prepared. This fight is a rematch, Anthony Joshua is trying to get his titles back. The adage is that a good big man beats a good small man. In terms of height, reach and everything else, Anthony is the bigger guy. If you have an advantage but don’t use it then there is no advantage. So if you have height, reach, size and strength then you must use it, and he is going to have to use it. Look, Robert Garcia, Anthony’s new trainer, isn’t going to have made him a whole new fighter – he hasn’t formed him from the beginning. But, what a new trainer can do is implement new tactics and motivate you in a different way, and hopefully that is what is going to make the difference.
Ben Whittaker (Unbeaten light-heavyweight contender)
AJ has got a point to prove now, he’s got a lot of people doubting him and he will want to prove them all wrong. This is a fight all about mind-set, it’s whoever goes in there with the right mind-set. I know Usyk has just come back from the war, so he’s going in there with a real mind-set! I’m rooting for AJ, he’s got a new team now and hopefully the game plan comes through.
Savannah Marshall (WBO female middleweight world champion)
I have seen videos of Usyk and he looks huge, he looks massive. I think what he had over Joshua anyway was the speed and agility anyway, so if he still has that with the added size too, then I can’t see Joshua doing anything with him. Listen, it is easier said than done, and I’m not giving him any advice, but if I was that size then I’d be trying to lean all over Usyk, make him work and hope that he tires towards the back ends of the rounds, and catching him that way. I just can’t see him being able to outbox Usyk.
Johnny Nelson (Former cruiserweight world champion)
AJ has got a lot to prove to himself. He has made some massive changes in regards to his team, and doing that comes at a price, so I am sure it is calculated – the changes have been made for a reason. It’s a good fight, a tough fight – but this is not an impossible ask for Anthony Joshua. It’s a fight he can win!