By Tré Berry III & Jon Uddin✍️ | 10/03/2021
Project Combat’s Jon Uddin and Tré Berry dedicate a full Sparring Session regarding the Joshua vs. Usyk showdown from last Saturday. We will both discuss our thoughts on how the events unfolded, the magnitude of the rollout, and what to expect in the pending rematch. We will also address what AJ may need to do, to fare off better in 🎬Act II, Joshua’s desire to shed a 🏷️label, and bringing to light Oleksandr Usyk’s most underrated skill that he possesses.
OLEKSANDR USYK HAS CRASHED THE PARTY IN THE HEAVYWEIGHT DIVISION
JON UDDIN – As impressive as the resume of the 34 year old Ukrainian was, a 2012 ◯◯◯◯◯Olympic Gold-Medalist, Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion by his 15th fight, and Fighter of the Year in 2018, Usyk’s goals in the Heavyweight division was a 🌉bridge too far for many to believe. Viewed as an excellent fighter with the skills to put on a good show, the possibility of him overcoming the size differential and wrecking the future plans of a Joshua v Fury showdown wasn’t viewed as likely as he entered the fight as a 🌫️2-1 underdog.
After Saturday’s dismantling of Anthony Joshua, he has gained the doubters full attention, somehow managed to further impress fans that were already in awe of the skills he brings to the ring, and has Eddie Hearn pulling his hair out as he now must cancel any plans he had revolving around a mega British Heavyweight title fight. We can now erase Joshua’s name and replace it with Oleksandr when discussing who will face the winner of the third fight between RING/WBC Champ 🇬🇧Tyson Fury and 🥉🇺🇸Deontay Wilder as the winner will hold the fourth and final piece to his undisputed puzzle.
TRÉ BERRY III – What can I say❓ the Ukrainian of legend added another chapter to his illustrious boxing journey – one that seen him boast a 📝335-15 amateur record, an Olympic Gold-Medalist, and a meteoric rise in the professional ranks that not only seen him becoming a Lineal Cruiserweight World Champion, but one who took it a step further becoming Undisputed Champion, being the only Cruiserweight to have a title defense under those circumstances, and cemented himself in serious discussions about being the greatest all-around fighter that the division has ever harbored.
The beauty about Olek’s journey is not the titles won, or the names on his 📜resume…it is that he has faced every style of opponent you could possibly square up against, yet he has had an answer for every one, which cites his versatility in not having a glaring weakness to speak of. He has faced small fighters, giant boxers, power punchers, slicksters, counter-punchers, pressure fighters – anything you put in front of him, so it didn’t surprise me one bit what he was able to do last week in slaying a giant in the Heavyweight ranks.
When it comes to a physics standpoint, once you get up to about the ⚖️200 lb. ranks, that’s when the natural limits of man is tested. Even the lightest of punchers pack enough ammo to hurt you, the physicality of fighters within that contingent can naturally hinder any opponents strength, and everyone is vulnerable due to those two aspects right there….so when it comes to competition, even when rendered a small Heavyweight (by today’s standards), everything is fair game, and will reflect who the superior boxer is, solely based on his skill, and his willpower to endure, and push forward.
Now, Anthony Joshua has always been a very good, consistent Heavyweight stalwart…but Oleksandr Usyk’s penchant for brilliance was on full display, as he showcased a level of skill rarely witnessed in the likes of the Heavyweight division, completely nullifying what his opponent wanted to do, and had him a state of confusion throughout the entire fight.
Now the one thing that surprised me…was the way that Usyk brazenly bullied Joshua down the stretch, which is one of the ballsiest moments I’ve seen occur in this generation of 🥊🥊fisticuffs, and that is the lasting moment that has been burned into my brain regarding Usyk’s legacy – an extremely loud statement against the sports second biggest 💰💵box-office attraction, which means the entire world was privy to seeing a special performance put forth by Olek, to secure the greatest Heavyweight win in Ukraine’s history without question.
The rematch clause is in place of course, so Usyk will have to have a repeat of fortune, so that his name will continue to be put forth for the potential Undisputed Heavyweight World Championship showdown between the winner of Fury/Wilder in their trilogy bout in the following week. While nothing is set in stone…it was deeply written in ✏️pencil, and who at this point wouldn’t have confidence in what Usyk could do at this level❓ I’m sure no one…or at least no one in their right mind.
CLASS WAS OFFICIALLY IN SESSION
JON UDDIN – 🥇🇺🇦Oleksandr Usyk was the teacher in there. 🥇🇬🇧Anthony Joshua had no answers. Well, to be fair, Joshua did find his range in the fifth round and begin to have some success and take a few rounds through the eighth. But from the opening round you could see Usyk had Joshua stumped behind his jab, feints and footwork taking advantage offensively while Joshua tried to figure out what was happening in front of him.
By the championship rounds it was clear Usyk was full steam ahead with a stoppage on his mind. Joshua was reeling and there was nowhere within the squared circle to find relief from the beating he was taking. Had there been just a few more seconds left, a couple more of the missile like left hands landed from Usyk, and we may have seen the British Adonis head to the canvas.
TRÉ BERRY III – Definitely, there are some concerns that have surfaced regarding the ⏲️clock, and time keeper etc. regarding the end of the fight, where some people felt like Anthony Joshua was saved from his own misery. Quite frankly in the moment live, my normal acumen for time was replaced by the euphoric sense of the moment, plus I haven’t really put that 12th round under a microscope since 📌(I will eventually), so I can’t really say with conviction what my stance was there.
Now, as for what Oleksandr Usyk was able to do…..what I’ve been pissed off most about within this past week regarding the boxing public, was in how many people have been taking unnecessary jabs at Joshua, casting disrespect upon his name, and also misinterpreting what was going on based on their perception of what gameplan he was supposed to have, in accordance with what really happened in there.
I find that people who are critical of Anthony Joshua’s style of performance is every bit guilty of staring too much at Joshua, and not paying enough attention to what Oleksandr Usyk was able to do, and I will go into explanation regarding that.
All I’ve been seeing people (and even some boxers) say, is that Joshua came in with the wrong fight plan, and should have been the bully from the start…but many have failed to realize that it was Joshua’s actual intention to try to turn the 🔥heat up immediately in the first round against the smaller Ukrainian opponent…but Usyk was able to neutralize every tactic that Joshua wanted to use from the get-go.
If you pull the fight back up, you’ll notice Joshua right after the 🛎️opening bell rush out to get to mid-center of the ring first, to turn up the mental pressure, and immediately take the space away from Usyk, remaining heavy on the front foot, and looking for alleys to where he could fit in the mega right hand.
Now that Joshua didn’t realize entering the fight…was how good Usyk’s lead hand is, the way he is able to probe jab, feint, change speeds, and maneuver it in a 🤺🗡️fencing motion that not only controlled the distance between the two fighters – it constantly forced AJ to reset, and even flinch in the back-end of the first stanza, especially after Usyk was able to ❄️🧊freeze Joshua with those tactics, and land two sharp left hands early down the middle to get Joshua’s immediate respect when it comes to his ability to punch, and get it there quickly.
Once Joshua felt the force behind them punches, he stopped pressing forward, and settled more-so in the mid-range…much of that because Usyk’s constant fence-like feinting, constant level changes, and the speed discrepancy with the footwork forced Joshua on his heels, in a reactive state towards every untimely feint, the constant shifting of angles within the pocket, and landing the power early, which made Joshua second-guess his own tactics, to realize he couldn’t just walk through his opponent – he had to be careful in his punch selection and pursuit because of return fire.
Not only did Usyk have a major first round in the scoring department, he forced Joshua and company to reassess the situation given the way that Oleksandr was able to tame the giant with multiple methods in him disarming the 💣ticking timebomb. Now also if you noticed, though Joshua was nullified, he actually made two different adjustments in the fight, which should garner him credit as a multi-dimensional fighter, instead of the way some people try to castigate him.
He began to slightly ⌚time Usyk’s angular movement well enough to step back whenever he would take position, and fire the lead right hand effectively in the middle rounds, landing enough of the boom to worry a little bit about the leather that Oleksandr was beginning to taste. Joshua also sprinkled in a little bit of a body attack when Usyk would finish up his combination punching, which made the fight very interesting within the moment as a possible ↩️momentum changer.
The problem with fighting Usyk is that with every adjustment you make, he always has a counter-adjustment due to his versatility, and recognition skills, so while Joshua in the middle rounds was able to implement what Usyk wouldn’t let him do earlier, Oleksandr changed his rhythm up, and varied the speeds on the fastball (so to say) when it came to the combination attack, forcing Joshua back on his heels once again to be rendered in no-mans land the rest of the fight.
Quite frankly…this may not come off that nice, but I don’t care, I always favor real over diplomacy. I always hear people say something like “well, why hasn’t anybody yet try to bumrush and pressure 🥇🥇🇬🇧Vasiliy Lomachenko?” (Usyk’s countrymen, and best friend). It’s simply because…you can’t. Everything that Usyk does at a true level of expertise, Loma has mastered as a level up in the arsenal, so you don’t need to look anywhere else in terms of getting a reference of what you are seeing, then to study the other Ukrainian in his journey.
Literally everything both Ukrainian’s do is a neutralizer towards what you want to do as an opposing fighter, and it never gives you a moment to breathe, or be comfortable, as you constantly have to react to every one of their feints, never know what’s coming, and when it is coming. There was no better example of this than when 🇬🇧Anthony Crolla fought LOMA, to where he stated he felt like he was 🌊drowning in there, even when the punches weren’t coming, and that was because of all the tactics that were being used against him, that took him out of position, sapped his energy, and made him feel completely helpless before the proverbial fall.
Back to Usyk…those who choose to pile up on Joshua, aren’t grasping the subtleties of the methods implemented, and it is clear that this method of style is going completely over their head, which is why they haven’t been able to identify why Joshua wasn’t able to fight the type of fight he wanted to fight…and those same contingent of Heavyweights (to put a face to it, 🇯🇲🇬🇧Dillian Whyte to lead the pack) if he were to ever get the opportunity, would quickly realize why you can’t just bull forward against someone of this magnitude with a fully calculated approach to take away the very things you want to do from the get-go. – 📍simplistic explanations never fully solves a very complicated narrative, and it never will.
IRON…USYKS MOST UNDERRATED TRAIT?
JON UDDIN – It appears that along with all the other praise rained upon Usyk and his performance, that an 🪨iron chin should be added. While it’s true Anthony Joshua was stumped by the 🧩puzzle that is Usyk, he did land his powerful right hand throughout the fight and to his and perhaps his trainer 🥋Rob McCracken’s surprise Usyk appeared impregnable.
Even those who felt Usyk would take this fight probably felt that he would be tested at some point in the fight, rocked by Joshua and would have to hold on in moments to survive the round if not put down at some point. But no, not only did Usyk not ever appear on shaky legs, he took Joshua’s shots and kept his full wits about him on the attack and defensively. That can’t be overlooked as he continues to make his way through the Heavyweight division.
TRÉ BERRY III – That right there was the greatest part of Usyk’s performance, and that is the portion of his legend that he is beginning to forge. After facing punchers like 🇬🇧Tony Bellew, 🇿🇼🇬🇧Dereck Chisora, 🇷🇺Murat Gassiev, 🥇🇬🇧Anthony Joshua and 🇱🇻Mairis Briedis, the only fighter that has managed to hurt him on the professional level was Gassiev, and even in that the fight, the punch that staggered him is one that whenever Murat lands it, you’re either going down, or staying down, yet Oleksandr Usyk somehow ate the punch and managed to stay on his feet, with shaky legs.
As stated by us earlier, Joshua landed some very sharp right hands mid-bout…the type of right hands that ruin plans, such as was the case when he upended 🥇🇷🇺Alexander Povetkin…. but Usyk took the punches very well, ate them…and though Joshua clearly hits harder than Usyk, it was Olek who did the damage with the power due to the power-to-chin ratio in terms of what Anthony Joshua himself is able to take.
All things considered…I think now Usyk has to be one that when you’re creating a list of current boxers, has to rank as top-3 when it comes to having one of the best 🪨chins in the game…and this fight, certainly against a P4P top-7 puncher in Anthony Joshua, without any real effects visibly felt in terms of the danger component, should solidify his positioning.
THE PROSPECTS OF THE REMATCH
JON UDDIN – Like it or not yes…there will be a rematch…and 🕴🏼Eddie Hearn has stated it will be in London. Immediately after the fight many fans took to their social media platform of choice to state they had no interest in a rematch, that Joshua had been dominated and there was nothing left to see here. Maybe it’s that the current landscape in boxing moves at a 🐌snails pace but I have no issue with a rematch.
First of all the clause was in the contract that was signed, secondly while Joshua won’t match Usyk in skills maybe he and 🥋Rob McCracken can come in with a better game plan the second time around and Joshua will fight like the big man he is, not be so dumbfounded by the southpaw element and take the fight on points (easy right?), and lastly of course in the Heavyweight division there will always be the good old punchers chance.
I look forward to the rematch but I don’t necessarily want or think for Joshua’s sake it should be immediate, get a fight in to tune up and get his bearings back. Joshua is still a current top 4 Heavyweight if not top 3, this loss doesn’t change that.
TRÉ BERRY III – Oh yeah Anthony Joshua is clearly still a top-4 Heavyweight, or even top-3, depending on how you choose to view the landscape. Usyk, Manager 🕴🏼Egis Klimas and company are very down to earth, and 🌴rooted in reality…so they were fully understanding that they signed up, for their man to topple Anthony Joshua twice. Considering the way the first fight played out, they fully expect Joshua, and Promoter 🕴🏼Eddie Hearn to run it back immediately, with motivation at full tilt to try and regain the WBA, WBO, IBF Heavyweight titles back in their fighters possession.
Now, if I was Eddie Hearn and crew…I would actually postpone the immediate prospects of the rematch much like you would. Why would we do so❓ someone as multi-faceted as Usyk is not someone you can prepare for on short time, especially if you’re in the process of trying to correct mistakes for a second go-at it. You need as much time as possible, so for Joshua, it would probably be a better idea to fit in an in between fight, or even 2 of them, to get himself further acclimated for what he would have to face for the rematch.
I’m a firm believer that as a prideful prizefighter, you should never, ever 🗓️age out an opponent, and I don’t subscribe to that here either….but it does have to be noted that Usyk turns 35 in January, and one wonders when (or if) the day will come where he’ll finally start to show some physical decline, so that would be forced to intertwine with the delaying of the rematch from Joshua’s end without the malicious intent attached to it.
Of course like everybody else, I would much rather see Usyk’s next fight be for Undisputed Champion, against whoever wins and stands tall at the divisions King in the other major Heavyweight bout….and if Joshua were to take the delay route, and Usyk had that fight, and won it, then Joshua in the rematch would finally get a shot for true Undisputed. Yes that is a lot of moving parts…but that would be a grand scenario for everybody if it were to play out exactly as that, in that way.
A MAN THAT HAS SOMETHING TO PROVE
JON UDDIN – As we all know this isn’t the first time Joshua has had his belts lifted off him. There is a difference in this one though. The first time in 2019 against 🇺🇸Andy Ruiz the news made headlines over the globe as it was a massive underdog upset story, but there were things Joshua could point to beforehand outside of the ring that explained why he was susceptible to the upset that night.
Joshua proved he was the better man later that year in the rematch as he fought big keeping Ruiz at bay on his way to a dominant decision win. This time he was dominated by the smaller man, flustered by that man’s skills and by the end that smaller man was beating him around the ring until the 🛎️final bell saved him. That won’t be able to be explained away, he will have to figure this one out before heading back to the ring.
To his credit Joshua is not hiding behind excuses and has said he will once again come back better. We will see how a better version of Joshua looks in the rematch but he no doubt will see an even better version of Usyk as well. I will add that I think Joshua has for whatever reason been labeled as mentally weak by some and it’s important for his legacy to take this challenge on again.
TRÉ BERRY III – I need to tackle that last point immediately because it is beginning to become the hook of his career. I will start things off by saying…there are no soft fighters within the boxing realm – it takes a certain level of crazy to get inside of the ring, when comparing to the everyday average individual. Now…if you take that component out of the mix, and assess it in comparison to his fellow counterparts who have taken up boxing as a profession, there are some inescapable truths.
There is no getting around that Anthony Joshua is (well, was) the most vulnerable Heavyweight Champion that I can remember, in terms of having a shaky chin, 💨stamina problems, and sometimes a pending confidence issue that sticks out like a craw in instances where it was needed….even though he has a boatload of talent to mask those drawbacks for most of his career.
I don’t think it is demonstrative to say that “in comparison to his peers”, Anthony Joshua is soft. And the confidence issues make itself present whenever he faces someone twice as stubborn as he is. Yes he had the one moment in his career-validator when he downed, and retired 🥇🇺🇦Wladimir Klitschko after being at the brink of being taken out, which I will always give full credit for, an incredible moment it was.
Now with that being said, was it an aberration? or was it something that he could always hold in his back pocket, to pull out whenever danger is lurking❓ that is why “in my person opinion” I have to see something twice…or at least twice before I begin to factor it in as a pattern, or something consistent that I can attach to your narrative as a reliable trait, or tool to use in times of need, and since that fight, I haven’t seen that gumption from him to dig down deep, bite on his gumshield, and get nasty in there to overcome all.
It isn’t like Joshua is oblivious, or unknowing to that narrative, so that will be ⛽extra fuel in his motivation tank to try and find ways tactically to put him in a better position, while the inner drive of fear of failure, and further spotlight being in jeopardy should force him to be twice as tough, giving the set of circumstances he now finds himself in.
Tactically, there are a couple of things he can do. Considering that he’s going to have a stamina problem ANYWAY…if the fight goes deep, he should back in heavy like he used to, around ⚖️250 lbs., which should also help a little bit with his punch resistance.
He should look to initiate clinches more, and during those clinches, lean heavily with his upper body weight to try to sap the energy from his opponent, and take some of the starch out of his legs by dealing with the constant force of the weight bogging him down. If he can make Olek any level of stagnant with his 👣footwork, it increases the chances of AJ landing something significant by the middle of the fight, which increases his chances drastically.
Lastly, Josuha should focus more on a consistent body attack, to try and control where the Ukrainian goes. It is not easy at all, because he has to be cognizant about return fire upstairs, but he will have to be stubborn about these tactics here if he has any chance to slow Usyk’s movement down…and that would be the best bet for him to make Oleksandr human…just enough for him to be touched, and touched enough with the power to perhaps possibly make a major difference.