There’s a lengthy pause from Dave Coldwell when asked if Oleksandr Usyk is the best fighter he’s faced as a trainer.
The Sheffield coach has tested his knowledge against a number of leading fighters including Canelo Alvarez, Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue, but he admits that the daunting Ukranian is right at the front when it comes to certain qualities.
In November 2018, Coldwell was in the corner for Tony Bellew when the Liverpool fighter challenged Usyk for all the marbles at cruiserweight before coming up short. Coldwell was impressed with what he seen that night and he believes there’s a method to Usyk’s work that makes him stand out that little more from other fighters he’s had to oppose.
“At making you work harder than you want to, Usyk is the best,” says Coldwell when speaking exclusively to DAZN. “Just by using his feet and feints, he keeps you thinking all the time and that can be damaging for a fighter. When your mind is overthinking about every move in a fight then you get tired a lot quicker. That’s what Usyk was brilliant at when he was down at cruiserweight.”
With two wins at heavyweight against Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora, the latter now trained by Coldwell, performances in his new weight class have not received glowing reports. Usyk has got the job done in both fights but the reintroduction of Anatoly Lomachenko to his team tells Coldwell that Usyk is employing tactics that made him such a menace at cruiserweight.
“Let’s be honest, I don’t think he’s set the world alight at heavyweight. Two good wins but the performances are nowhere near what you’d expect when you compare it to his run at cruiserweight. With Lomachenko’s dad back onboard, I think we get a streamlined Usyk trying to use all his best assets such as his feet and his movement to try and tire “AJ” out. That’s what’s worked for him in the past and he’ll be hoping it works again.”
With Coldwell an ardent student of the sport, the careers of Usyk and Joshua, which have run side by side since both captured gold at the London Olympics, have been monitored closely by the Rotherham based coach. Coldwell is expecting a good fight but after enduring a few nervy moments, he expects to Joshua to emerge victorious.
“Joshua is a much more rounded fighter now and that’s going to help him so much in this fight. We look at this fight a few years ago and you can say that Usyk holds a lot more advantages but I do like the improvements that Joshua has made in recent fights since he lost to Andy Ruiz a couple of years ago.
“He’s much lighter on his feet, he paces his fights better and you can see improvements in him all the time. I think his size is going to be a factor in this fight and he’ll need to use that well but from what I’ve seen from both fighters in the last couple of years, especially since Usyk moved to heavyweight, I make the Joshua the favourite to win.”
Joshua vs. Usyk takes place Saturday Sept. 25 and airs live on DAZN in over 170 countries around the world. Check here to see if DAZN carries the fight in your country.