For the first time in his professional career, Anthony Joshua heads into a fight as the underdog in the betting.
Joshua’s diminished status in his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk is a reflection of how easily the Ukrainian beat him in the first bout at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 12 months ago.
AJ needs to have the fight of his life if he is going to win back the WBA (Super), WBO and IBF titles he lost last September, as well as claim the Ring Magazine belt that has been vacated by Tyson Fury.
WINNER: Joshua by KO
Joshua has avenged a defeat in Saudi Arabia before, producing a measured performance to beat John Ruiz on points in December 2019.
But a completely different approach is required here.
Usyk is a far superior boxer to Ruiz, while Joshua has to be aggressive if he is to have any chance of victory.
Joshua claimed his tactics in the first fight against Usyk, where he tried to outbox his opponent, rather than using his height, weight and reach advantage, were “crazy”.
That flawed gameplan caused him to part ways with Rob McCracken, his long-time trainer who had guided him throughout his professional career, as well as the London 2012 Olympics.
In McCracken’s place is Robert Garcia, the highly-respected American who has guided 14 fighters to world titles.
Joshua says his conditioning is better heading into the rematch and has vowed to “do my best and win by knock out”.
That is realistically the only way he can win. So if you fancy Joshua to claim what would be the greatest victory of his career, back him to do so by KO.
WINNER: Usyk by decision
Usyk’s performance in the first fight was a masterclass but there is zero risk of him becoming complacent here.
The 35-year-old has been swimming five hours a day – in addition to his regular training – in order to add muscle and size to his 6ft 3in frame.
He also has the added motivation of performing for the people in his home country of Ukraine, where the fight will be streamed for free.
Usyk proved in the first fight that he is a lighter, faster and better boxer than Joshua.
And while AJ will not be as passive this time around, the reality is that he has lost two of his last four fights.
Providing he navigates the early rounds, Usyk is likely to toy with his opponent and claim a points victory once again.
All odds are subject to change