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Joshua v Usyk II: The numbers behind the Rage on the Red Sea

| 15.08.2022

What will happen in Joshua v Usyk II?

Anthony Joshua will be looking to reclaim the heavyweight titles he lost to Oleksandr Usyk last year when the two men meet again on Saturday at the Jeddah Super Dome in Saudi Arabia.

Here we have broken down the data behind the fight of Joshua v Usyk II – titled ‘Rage on the Red Sea’ – to predict how it will unfold.

Will Joshua bulk up?

Joshua is the bigger boxer, standing seven centimetres taller than Usyk with an extra 10 centimetres of reach. The British fighter weighed in nine kilograms heavier during their first fight – 109kg to 100kg – and with Eddie Hearn promising a more aggressive Joshua this time around he could arrive in Saudi Arabia sporting even more muscle.

While Joshua dropped four kilos to avenge his shock defeat to Andy Ruiz in 2019 – coincidentally also in Saudi Arabia – he usually weighs in heavier.

He was 113kg for his 2017 victory over the legendary Wladimir Klitschko, a career-high 115kg for his following bout against Carlos Takam and 111kg when facing Alexander Povetkin the following year.

All three of those fights saw him knock his opponent out, so he could well choose to bulk up in order to overpower Usyk.

The undefeated Ukrainian is the first notable southpaw that Joshua has encountered since a two-round demolition of Charles Martin back in 2016, which may have given him an element of surprise that he cannot rely on for Joshua v Usyk II.

What happened last time?

Usyk took Joshua to school at their last meeting, winning by unanimous decision after 12 rounds in which he made his punches count. Joshua threw 112 more overall – 21% more than his rival – but Usyk connected an additional 25 times: 20% more often than his opponent.

His total tally of 148 punches landed was the most that anyone has registered against Joshua in his professional career.

The difference can solely be explained by power punches, as the two men were even on jabs with 52 apiece. This is where Joshua needs to improve this time around and he will need to use his height advantage to keep out of Usyk’s range while unleashing more damage of his own.

Joshua needs a better plan

Joshua will also need to start with more purpose than when they met in London last year. In their first fight Usyk landed 10 more power punches over the first three rounds alone.

The fight then ebbed until a devastating seventh round in which Joshua soaked up 23 punches – roughly the same as his combined output over the first four rounds.

One reason that Joshua may want to end this fight early is to avoid a repeat of his poor finish to the previous encounter.

The final two rounds were incredibly one-sided with Usyk connecting a total of 41 times to Joshua’s 15, including an eye-watering 19 more power punches.

When could the fight end?

For those speculating on Joshua v Usyk II ending in a knockout, the seventh round is the most interesting.

Not only was that one of Usyk’s best in their first meeting but it’s also the only round in which both men have seen more than one full-length fight stopped early.

Joshua has knocked out Dillian Whyte, Dominic Breazeale and Povetkin in the seventh while also suffering his first career loss – against Ruiz – in this round.

Usyk dispatched Pedro Rodriguez during the seventh round when fighting at cruiserweight and also saw Chazz Witherspoon retire at this stage.

However, there’s a good chance that the judges will need to pick a winner in Joshua v Usyk II, with more than half of Usyk’s previous 12-round fights having lasted the full distance along with three of Joshua’s last six. A repeat here is priced at evens.

A busy night for Joshua?

Setting aside their meeting last September, we can examine each boxer’s previous five fights to paint a picture of their usual approach. On average Usyk has been the far more aggressive fighter, throwing twice as many punches per round: 64 to 32.

This includes two and a half times as many power punches, with around 10 connecting per round compared to just four of Joshua’s.

While the Brit – who was the busier fighter when they last met – could fall back on his usual more patient approach, we’re unlikely to see a measured performance from the defending champion in the opposite corner.

Expect Usyk to grow into the fight

If their recent fights are any indication then Usyk’s energy levels will rise as this one progresses. Each boxer’s five previous bouts lasted at least seven rounds and at this stage the Ukrainian landed twice as many punches as Joshua on average: 22 to 11.

The rate at which Usyk makes contact with his opponent has risen steadily over each of the first five rounds, so we could see a cagey start in which he gradually raises the tempo of the contest and challenges Joshua to match him.

With the challenger tending to peak in the third round, landing fewer blows in the fourth and fifth, this could be the stage at which their performances diverge.

Joshua v Usyk II betting

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Warren Barner