Anthony Joshua returns this weekend to defend his WBA (super), IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles against the undefeated, former Cruiserweight king, Oleksandr Usyk. Taking place in the new 62,000 seater Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the two stars will clash in a fight that sees the skilful Usyk attempt to avoid the heavy-hitting Brit. The winner of this one could very well see the winner get a shot at becoming the undisputed championship next year.
The fight itself is intriguing because we don’t know what Anthony Joshua will show up. Will he try and box Usyk, or will he try and blow the smaller man out of the water and stop it early. Although he has a size and power advantage over the Ukrainian, many think that Usyk is the better pure boxer.
Joshua has changed the way he’s fought throughout his career and the turning point was his fight against the long-time champion, Wladimir Klitschko. We take a look at AJ’s stats pre and post the fight with Klitschko in 2017 and conclude how the Usyk fight may play out.
Anthony Joshua – Pre Klitschko
Having burst onto the UK scene after 2012 gold medal Olympic success, Joshua signed with Matchroom and Eddie Hearn. He made the transition to professional boxing excellently, finishing his first seven bouts inside of two rounds. Although he did utilise his jab, it was used sparingly and used mainly to set up his huge right. A total of just 126 jabs were landed across his first seven fights.
His first major test came against fellow Brit and bitter rival, Dillian Whyte. It turned out to be the longest fight of Joshua’s career until that point. It lasted seven rounds, with Joshua being forced to adjust from just being a puncher having been rocked. Although the fight went almost 20 minutes, he still only landed 62 jabs. Whyte landed 35 more jabs than Joshua and also outlanded him on average per minute by 29%.
Joshua finished his next fight in just two rounds against a pathetic Charles Martin. Martin landed just four punches across the two rounds, with Joshua finishing him in the second. We didn’t learn an awful lot about Joshua in this fight because Martin didn’t show up to truly fight. The Eric Molina fight was a similar story, with Joshua blowing the American away in just three rounds.
Joshua showed much better boxing skills against Dominic Breazeale. With the fight going to the seventh round, Joshua landed 91 jabs, the most of his career at the time. Breazeale was outclassed but game. He didn’t just ‘go away’ when Joshua landed on him. Joshua had to adjust on the fly and his output stayed fairly consistent throughout.
Before the Klitschko fight, Joshua had gone past the 6th round just twice, finishing each of those two fights in the seventh.
The Klitschko Fight
The Klitschko fight was the turning point for Anthony Joshua. He was hurt, dropped and very close to being finished. He gassed out but luckily for him, found a second wind. Rounds six, seven and eight were rough for Joshua, landing under 10 punches in each round. He landed 80 jabs across the 11 rounds despite throwing 208. His punch combinations saw that he still occasionally let his head rule his gameplan, landing big combinations (19 above 3 or more shots as opposed to just five of Klitschko).
Post Klitschko Era
Following the Klitschko fight, Anthony Joshua’s game changed. Before his huge Wembley bout with ‘Dr Steelhammer’, Joshua only saw the seventh round twice, finishing it on both occasions in that round. Post Klitschko, he’s now seen the seventh round six times, finishing it once in the seventh and getting finished once, again in the seventh.
After the famous Wembley night came Carlos Takam. The awkward, experienced, game veteran gave Joshua a good go. Leading with his head, Takam busted Joshua’s nose, causing the Brit to have to adjust his game. AJ was able to get the finish (which was arguably a little premature) in the 10th round. Only 3.7% of his combinations were above 3 shots, highlighting a more cautious approach from the Brit.
Joseph Parker became the first man not to fall at the hands of AJ when they went the distance in 2018. Aside from the referee being awful and not allowing the fighters to fight on the inside at all, Joshua showed his superior boxing skills. Out-jabbing Parker, Joshua was able to get the job done by being much more accurate. Although Parker attempted more punches, he was unable to land with any great conviction and landed at a lower percentage than Joshua. 77.3% of Joshua’s shots were just single shots, with only 2.1% of his shots being a combination of three or more shots. Again this shows a more cautious approach.
Then came back to back fights that ended in the seventh round, starting with a victory over Alexander Povetkin. He landed 67 jabs to Povetkin’s 11 but had attempted 168 to the Russian’s 39. Again, Joshua only threw three combos over two individual shots, proving that he was much more reserved in this one.
The Ruiz Loss
Making his American debut, Anthony Joshua took on Andy Ruiz on short notice. Something wasn’t right with Joshua that night and it ultimately lead him to lose for the first time with a seventh-round TKO. Joshua landed 49 jabs, 14 lead hooks and just five crosses over the seven rounds. It was the first time we saw Joshua struggle to keep his cool since the Klitschko fight. In that fight, he came out in the fifth and emptied the gas tank, ignored his defence and went for the finish. As we know it didn’t pay off until later in that one, however, in this one, it didn’t pay off at all.
Joshua dropped Ruiz in the third round and pounced on him, looking for a finish. Ruiz was able to drop AJ as a result of his lack of defence. Two further knockdowns in the seventh round were all she wrote for AJ, who lost his belts.
The rematch really showed Joshua’s boxing skills, when he went 12 rounds with Ruiz, dominating him with the jab, throwing a massive 241 and landing 97. He also landed 52% of his shots in rounds 9-12, showing how his gas tank held out and how he can box late into the fight.
Anthony Joshua’s most recent bout came against the wiley, Kubrat Pulev. Going into the bout, AJ had the superior power, the superior boxing skills, he’s younger, faster and had arguably fought more well-rounded boxers. Joshua utilised his jab well against the Bulgarian, and also didn’t rush in when he had the veteran hurt. His defence looked solid, his movement during the middle rounds was good, where he usually begins to slow down. The finish came in the ninth round, the third latest finish of his career thus far.
Ultimately, Anthony Joshua has changed the way he approaches fights becoming more cautious and more of a boxer rather than a puncher. Robert McCracken, Joshua’s head coach obviously saw something against Klitschko which worried him, maybe in Joshua’s defence when he opens up, maybe his cardio failures.
Since the blockbuster 2017 fight, Joshua’s fights have extended massively, going past the seventh round in every fight, whereas beforehand, he had only seen the seventh twice. He’s suffered a loss but bounced back well, showing how he can become a boxer, rather than a knockout artist. He’s gone to decision twice, winning on both occasions, again showing his skills as a boxer. He’s become jab heavy, fighting behind it and setting up his shots rather than trying to blow opponents away with his pure power.
One of the main questions coming into this weekend’s fight is whether Anthony Joshua will come in heavy, in an attempt to blow the smaller Usyk away with power early, or whether he’ll come in lighter, looking to box and move in order to try and out-point the better boxer.
Whatever happens, we’ll have your results right here on what should be a great night of fights.
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