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Anthony Joshua prepares for the toughest test of his career against talented Ukrainian.

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“Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr.” by Richard Heathcote/Getty is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Fight fans in the UK were desperate to see a 2021 showdown between current heavyweight boxing champions Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. It has been a long time since we’ve seen a unified world heavyweight champion, and that wait will rumble on at least for another while. AJ and the Gypsy King won’t clash this year, with summer 2022 now looking the earliest any bout could happen.

The breakdown in negotiations between Team Joshua and the Fury camp meant both fights were forced to look elsewhere for their next opponents. The Gypsy King must honour his contract and give rival Deontay Wilder the trilogy he craves. That fight will be pushed back to later this summer. Joshua has agreed to defend his clutch of world heavyweight belts against the challenge of talented Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk.

The latter is a fight that has really captured the imagination of boxing followers around the world, with many fight game experts claiming Usyk will be the Brit’s toughest test to date. Gamblers are scrambling to make their predictions but to get value for money it’s important to understand how betting odds work and how you can use them in your favour. A bet on boxing isn’t just one that wins but one that wins at the right price.

Why the delay in announcing a venue?

A date has been agreed for 25th September with AJ’s WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO world heavyweight titles to be won. No venue has been agreed as of yet, with promoters seemingly waiting for the all-clear from the UK government to stage the fight in England with a capacity crowd in attendance. That would rely on all coronavirus restrictions being eased by Westminister as planned.

For a world heavyweight title fight of this magnitude to make financial sense to all those involved, it must be available on PPV around the world but must also pull in a bumper audience at the venue with thousands purchasing tickets. Anything less than a maximum capacity at Wembley puts the bout at risk, and that’s not something the promoters, managers or fighters are willing to do.

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The reason for the delay in announcing Wembley or the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as the venue is purely about a capacity crowd. If the UK government can’t OK this, then the show will be staged overseas. It could move to America or Dubai, where rules on capacity crowds give organisers more flexibility and more earning potential.

Having Joshua defend his titles overseas would be a blow to British boxing fans and the British economy at a time when both are in need of something to look forward to. UK fans want to see their champion in action. The fight being in England would increase Joshua’s chances of winning, and sport in the country could certainly do with the cash boost following over a year in lockdown.

The pressure is now on officials to give the green light, but after Wembley Stadium hosted thousands of football fans from across Europe during the Euro 2020 matches, the signs are promising at this stage. Fight fans certainly have reason to be optimistic.

Oleksandr Usyk” by SkySports is licensed under CC BY 3.0

What does Usyk bring to the table?

The skills and talents of Joshua are well known in the fight game, but what does challenger Usyk bring to the table? Does he have a live chance of upsetting the party and beating AJ? The Ukrainian born southpaw certainly has the skills to trouble the champion and brings an impressive 18-fight unbeaten record into this contest. Of his wins, he has scored 13 by knockout, resulting in a devastating 72% KO average. Oleksandr is a former cruiserweight world champion who unified the division. He is no stranger to beating British fighters either and will arrive on fight night confident he can do the same again.

Usyk was last seen in action defeating Londoner Dillian Whyte at Wembley Arena late last year. That clash went to points, with Usyk collecting victory on the scorecards thanks to margins of two rounds, two rounds and five rounds. The beaten man disputed the decision, believing he had been wronged by the judges, but most thought it a fair result.

In 2018 Usyk beat Liverpool’s Tony Bellew at the Manchester Arena, stopping his opponent in the eighth round. That bout took place at cruiserweight, but he’ll find Joshua a much tougher opponent to deal with. Is he ready for the step up to elite level in the sport’s highest weight division? We’ll find out this summer.

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