By: Sean Crose
Some certainly seem to feel that Anthony Joshua, who holds numerous heavyweight title belts, will effectively handle challenger Oleksandr Usyk when the two meet to battle for those belts in September. Joshua, after all, is a contemporary super-sized heavyweight while Usyk not all that long ago was the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world. In other words, the size advantage for Joshua is considerable. Not insurmountable, but considerable. There have, of course, been heavyweights who have bested considerably bigger competition. Max Baer won the heavyweight crown from Primo Carnera. And Jack Dempsey was able to crush the mountainous Jess Willard when he claimed heavyweight supremacy in 1919.
Overall, though, size comes into play in boxing, especially when the likes of Anthony Joshua are involved. For Joshua is more than just height and physique. He knows how to fight. What’s more, he knows how to adapt his style to the situation at hand, as he did when he regained his belts from Andy Ruiz at the end of 2019. This is not to write off Usyk, who is essentially a walking, talking skill set. If any former cruiserweight, or perhaps any heavyweight, can beat Joshua, Usyk might well be the one.
All of this is bad news for Joshua. In fact, the entire
fight puts the popular Englishman in a kind of no-win situation. Should he walk
through Usyk, people can argue that Joshua was simply thrown in with smaller
competition, a David and Goliath battle where David entered the contest without
a slingshot. Should Joshua lose, however, it would do terrible damage to his reputation.
Not only losing his belts but losing them for the second time to a man who once
operated a full division below heavyweight could be quite the humiliating
experience. For there are those apt to forget the fact that Usyk is a world
class contender, and simply home in on the fact that Joshua couldn’t beat him.
The ironic thing here is that Joshua was expected to be
facing Tyson Fury – another enormous heavyweight – for the undisputed championship
of the world in August. An American arbitrator caused that fight to fall
through, though, and now Joshau is facing Usyk while Fury battles former WBC
titlist Deontay Wilder for the third time. It looks like it will be a long while
before the dust settles and a true heavyweight king will be crowned and/or
accepted by the public. Before that ever happens, though, Joshua must get
through the talented Usyk if he wants to remain in the running, a thankless
task if ever there was one.