Something special happened in the ninth round of Anthony Joshua's win over Kubrat Pulev in December.
The unified world heavyweight champion smelled blood after dropping Pulev for a third time in the fight and went back to being arguably boxing's best closer with a punctuating knockout of the Bulgarian. The victory brought his KO ratio to nearly 92 percent.
With it, Joshua retained his titles and regained his championship swagger and moxie that had been absent his past two fights.
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Although the fight before that had him outpointing Andy Ruiz for a unanimous decision to snatch back his unified world heavyweight crown, AJ was tactical, but rather tame, having learned his lesson from mixing it up with the Mexican the previous bout.
Against Pulev, Joshua went back to brutality.
And that's what I fully expect him to deliver against Oleksandr Usyk next Saturday night at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in Tottenham, England and live on DAZN. The bout marks Usyk's third fight at heavyweight and Joshua must demonstrate that the Ukrainian is biting off more than he could chew.
Joshua has to stop Usyk and hand the former cruiserweight king his first pro less. It’s what a dominating heavyweight king, threatening for undisputed glory, would do.
Yes, Usyk successfully strung together a package of boxing skills and power punching to stop Chazz Witherspoon in the Ukrainian’s heavyweight debut in October 2019. He then produced a unanimous decision over Dereck Chisora on October 2020.
Usyk is oozing with skills from the southpaw stance and that makes him a difficult matchup for anyone who would ever test his sweet science.
That’s precisely why Joshua shouldn’t play sweet scientist in a week’s time. Although the bout might have AJ needing to demonstrate the art of patience to set his punches up, he needs to devastate Usyk. He needs to leverage every bit of that hulking 6-foot-6 frame and 82 inches of reach to Usyk’s 6-foot-3 and 78 inches.
He needs to show Usyk that despite the Ukrainian’s brilliance at cruiserweight as an undisputed champion, heavyweight is a totally different beast and that there are levels to boxing.
Simply put: Anthony Joshua needs to bully Usyk. And that’s exactly what I think he’ll do even if he has to overcome some bumps along the way.
How else can the 31-year-old AJ walk into a potential undisputed heavyweight championship fight against the winner of the upcoming Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder trilogy for the WBC strap? A destruction of Usyk would be the apt springboard befitting of a heavyweight ruler like the British stud.
Expect sheer dominance from Joshua. It’s the only way for a two-time unified world heavyweight champion to truly welcome a solid boxer like Usyk up to the division and let him know that daring to be great has its consequences.