JOHNNY NELSON: Oleksandr Usyk is a good technical boxer and Anthony Joshua must pace himself


Former world cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson weighs in on Saturday’s world heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk.

He says Joshua will face an almighty test from the Ukrainian and a win would underline just how much progress he has made as an elite fighter.

He is backing Joshua to win in a tight points decision but is not ruling out a draw.  

Oleksandr Usyk is the best technical boxer in the business and is adept at tiring out opponents

Joshua keeps his opponents under pressure with the threat of his explosive punching power.

Joshua keeps his opponents under pressure with the threat of his explosive punching power.

STRENGTHS

I saw what Usyk did to Wladimir Klitschko in sparring prior to the latter’s fight with Tyson Fury. Klitschko was having kittens trying to catch him and was throwing three punches for every one of Usyk’s. 

He made such an impression they ushered Usyk out the back door of the gym so we couldn’t speak to him. He is technically the best boxer around. 

An elusive southpaw, schooled in the Anatoly Lomachenko way, he lures opponents into expending energy as they try to hit him then counters to perfection.

Joshua is tall, rangy and has the weight and power. Usyk can punch, as his previous opponent Derek Chisora has testified, but Joshua is the more explosive, concussive puncher and he keeps his opponents under pressure with the threat of that power.

Joshua has a tendency to want to mix it up, which  got him into trouble against Andy Ruiz Jnr

Joshua has a tendency to want to mix it up, which  got him into trouble against Andy Ruiz Jnr

WEAKNESSES

It’s difficult to identify weaknesses in either. The mistake Usyk could make in his preparation is to put too much weight on to match Joshua. 

If he comes in at closer to 17stones it will be detrimental to the fluid style that has served him so well. We have also yet to see him be tested with heavy punches from a bigger athletic fighter.

Joshua has a tendency to want to mix it up and slug it out. It got him into trouble with the first fight against Andy Ruiz Jr and he says he has learnt his lesson. There’s an honesty to what he says, an acknowledgement that he is fallible and still learning, but he must stick to the gameplan against a boxer with such intelligence. 

All egos need to be checked in before you enter the ring.

Ukrainian Usyk stays relaxed and likes to switch on his persona on the day of the fight

Ukrainian Usyk stays relaxed and likes to switch on his persona on the day of the fight

MENTALITY

They have been a mirror image of each other this week. None of the nonsense trash talking you normally associate with such a fight. 

There’s a mutual respect, two champions in confident moods, they don’t want to give the other ammunition in the build up. They are like two assassins preparing to go to work. Often the quieter the build-up, the more brutal the fight becomes. 

Usyk stays relaxed and likes to switch on his persona on the day of the fight. His style demands concentration from his opponent and Joshua, who has enjoyed a good camp in Sheffield, will have to stay switched on and keep his discipline as he did in the rematch with Ruiz Jr. 

Tony Bellew admitted he was a fan of Usyk before he got in the ring with him and I think that played a part mentally in his defeat, Joshua doesn’t have that concern. 

Joshua will be stronger, has the bigger punch and knows Usyk will have to come close in

Joshua will be stronger, has the bigger punch and knows Usyk will have to come close in

PHYSICALITY

Joshua possesses the edge at this weight. He has the power and the size but is athletic with it. He will be stronger and possesses the bigger punch and knows Usyk will have to come in close at some stage.

Standing next to Usyk this week he looked heavier up top, almost square in the body, but skinny in his legs which would suggest he wants to stay mobile. Usyk will try to get inside, ride Joshua’s shots then counter.

Joshua must pace himself. If he has trained in the gym to throw 300 punches per round he needs to stick to that. We saw how Bellew ran out of gas against Usyk midway through their fight despite being ahead and it was his undoing. 

Joshua will need that stamina at the end of the fight as Usyk is patient, he likes to start steady then slowly builds up his pace.

TACTICS

Usyk is one of the best at making you work harder than you want to. He wants you to punch yourself out, throw three shots to his one. 

By using his feet and feints, he keeps you guessing all the time and if you get lured in and keep missing, that can be damaging for your mindset as a fighter. You overthink every move, grow tired quicker, then doubt your gameplan. 

I don’t see any reason for him to change as it’s what he does best. Ideally, Joshua could rush in and go for the explosive finish early on but I think he’ll play it safe and figure out what’s in front of him. 

He’s a more rounded, patient fighter now, he is fleet-footed and can keep his discipline – using that extra power and reach to keep totting up points. 

This is a big test for Joshua but he should win on points although a draw is possible

This is a big test for Joshua but he should win on points although a draw is possible

VERDICT

I think the boxing public is slowly waking up to how big a test this is for Anthony Joshua. 

He really hasn’t had the credit he deserves for taking on this challenge. If he wins, it will underline his progress as an elite fighter. 

It’s that close I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends in a draw, but I’ll go for Joshua to win on a tight points decision. 

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