We’ve got a busy Saturday coming in boxing, and it’s all headlined midday (American time) by Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua locking horns again Saudi Arabia.
Who wins that fight and SIX more on Saturday? We’ve got our picks in, so let’s get down to business.
Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2
Scott Christ (50-27)
I just can’t take much from Joshua’s rematch win over Andy Ruiz Jr. First of all, he wasn’t caught, rocked, and stopped in the middle rounds by Usyk, he was thoroughly out-boxed over 12. Second of all, while Usyk’s may come in heavier for the rematch, I don’t think he’ll come in so out of shape that he can’t really do much with his arms, which are pretty vital for boxing.
I think AJ’s a very good fighter. I think he made the right move to switch his camp up for this fight, though it remains to be seen if the switch he made was the right one. He’s never been the best at making in-fight adjustments, so what if the Plan A he and Robert Garcia come with doesn’t work? Can he make Plan B, Plan C effective? And I think it’s wild to believe Joshua can just come out and truck Usyk, as if Usyk has never seen anyone try to use aggression on him.
But Usyk is coming in from this fight having spent months away from boxing, in a country being torn by war. He has big questions, too, and the weight isn’t an irrelevant one; I’m taking the guess that it won’t slow him down significantly enough to make the difference, but we’ll have to see.
I’ve stewed on this for a good bit, because I do think there are logical, reasonable arguments on both sides. But in the end, I think Usyk might just be too good for AJ. But I think we’re going to see a great fight here. Joshua isn’t by any means or in any way in a “last chance” situation; he’s a big star, a major draw, he’ll have plenty more chances and options. I think he’ll fight with an urgency, though. He’s a competitor and he wants to even the score here. He also has a potential Tyson Fury mega-fight on the line. That aggression, though, could get him picked apart if it doesn’t work, and that’s what I’m going with, an Usyk stoppage over a faded and tired Joshua in the late rounds. Usyk TKO-10
Wil Esco (59-18)
Generally speaking, I think Anthony Joshua has done well to accept his shortcomings in his previous loss to Oleksandr Usyk and has at least made a conscious effort to go back to the drawing board and switch things up. Exactly how effective he’ll be in a change of tactics against Usyk remains to be seen, but I have a tough time believing Joshua will be able to reinvent himself to the point there’s a dramatic shift in how the fight plays out.
Obviously Joshua trying to out-box a master craftsman like Usyk in their first meeting was a bad idea, but I don’t know that Joshua really has it in him to be a seek and destroy kind of fighter, and even if that is his intention, I’m also not sure he’s quick enough on his feet to really track down and corner Usyk very often. While it’s hard to know for sure exactly how Usyk is doing coming off his wartime experience, he at least appears to be more or less than the same guy we all remember. If Joshua intends to press Usyk more, I think he sets himself up to get picked apart a bit more viciously this time around. I’m taking Usyk to win a late stoppage. Usyk TKO-10
John Hansen (59-18)
Can Anthony Joshua come back from an upset loss to an opponent that beat him due in no small part to Joshua’s own tactical errors and inability to adjust mid-fight? An opponent that had previous question marks about their ability to hang at the top level of the heavyweight division, has gone through major distractions out of the ring in the aftermath of the first fight, and may be coming into the rematch substantially heavier?
Yes, I think there’s precedent for that.
Oleksandr Usyk is amazing, and his victory last time around was both impressive and undeniable. He fought a brilliant fight, and answered any lingering questions over his initial heavyweight performances against Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora.
But, he still comes in with all of the disadvantages that made him a bigger underdog in the first fight than Joshua is in this rematch. And, while Joshua isn’t great at changing things up during a fight, he’s already demonstrated that he can accept, learn from, and bounce back after a defeat.
Usyk isn’t Andy Ruiz. But, that cuts two ways. Usyk is a fighter of rare talent and ability. Is he the best pound-for-pound boxer active today? That’s really a question for Scott, and I encourage everyone to ask him about it frequently and argue with whatever he says as aggressively as possible.
But, he’s also not Andy Ruiz in that Usyk is a somewhat recently inflated cruiserweight. Great cruiserweights can be successful heavyweights, but they have limitations there that don’t apply to full size tanks like Joshua.
Maybe Joshua comes in with another unsuccessful plan, or maybe Usyk just presents riddles Joshua won’t be able to solve. It’s very possible, and that’s what makes this such a compelling fight. But, I believe that Anthony Joshua will combine his size and power with the lessons he learned in the first matchup with Usyk. And, if I’m right? Bring on the trilogy. Joshua UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg (61-16)
The consensus around this fight is that Joshua needs to use his physicality to overcome Usyk’s speed and wizardry, to which I say: don’t you think he tried that already? It’s not like he fought a techncial battle the first time around because he wanted to. Usyk forced him into it, and whatever adjustments Joshua makes this time around to try and induce a brawl, I have full faith that someone as seasoned and adaptable as Usyk can work around it. I just don’t think Joshua’s got it in him to go full Chisora, both in terms of durability and mindset.
Joshua needs two things here to even the score: a steep decline in Usyk’s conditioning and a referee willing to forgive the excessive holding he used against Joshua Parker. The former’s definitely feasible after Usyk’s time on the front lines, but odds are that Usyk’s deceptively heavy combinations once again blunt Joshua’s offense and turn it into the sort of technical boxing match in which Usyk excels. Usyk UD-12
Emanuel Navarrete vs Eduardo Baez
Scott Christ (50-27)
Baez is a pretty good fighter, but he doesn’t have the tools to deal with Navarrete, who continues a run of, uh, let’s call it “smart matchmaking” in world title defenses, the only interruption being the fight against Ruben Villa in 2020, which almost got away from him.
I think there are guys out there who would give Navarrete a terrible night — that belief bolstered by their general avoidance of risky fights — but he really is a very good, unique fighter. And he’s going to have too much firepower here, though Baez might nick some rounds early, but I think Navarrete will wear him down and close it late. Navarrete TKO-11
Wil Esco (59-18)
Emanuel Navarrete continues his title run in this outing against Eduardo Baez, and I think we largely get more of the same results for Navarrete here, who has a unique style and supreme confidence at the moment. I think Navarrete has mostly been matched pretty favorably in recent years, and I see that trend continuing here against a fighter in Baez who is pretty competent but certainly doesn’t pack much of a fight-changing punch. Without much pop, I don’t think Baez is a good enough boxer to outpoint Navarrete in this fight. Baez has never been stopped, however, and I think Navarrete will be pretty content to rack up points over the rounds and take this fight to the cards down the stretch. Navarrete UD-12
John Hansen (59-18)
Emanuel Navarrete is good action, and Eduardo Baez is sturdy and game. That’s the best case scenario for a second tier Navarrete fight. And, while Baez is better than many of Navarrete’s quarterly foes during his high volume period, this is still a second tier Navarrete fight.
Fights like that can still be entertaining, especially when the lead is aggressive and powerful like Navarrete. But, there’s not really much interesting to say about them in advance. Navarrete usually works opponents like Baez over pretty thoroughly. That’s probably what’s going to happen here, too. Navarrete TKO-8
Patrick L. Stumberg (61-16)
While he’s made a habit of flipping scripts latelu, Baez just doesn’t have the right toolbox to get by Navarrete. A low-power, high-volume approach is just asking for trouble against Navarrete’s destructive offense, and Baez isn’t a sufficiently skilled boxer to outmaneuver Navarrete when sharper technicians like Ruben Villa couldn’t do so.
Plus, he dips his head way too much against a guy with some of the best uppercuts in the sport.
There’s no question that Baez will fight his ass off, but no amount of guts can carry him past a bigger, more versatile, and more devastating puncher. Navarrete tears up his body to force a mid-round mercy stoppage. Navarrete TKO-7
Callum Smith vs Mathieu Bauderlique
- Scott: Smith TKO-9
- Wil: Smith TKO-8
- John: Smith TKO-10
- Patrick: Smith UD-12
Filip Hrgovic vs Zhilei Zhang
- Scott: Hrgovic TKO-4
- Wil: Hrgovic TKO-5
- John: Hrgovic KO-5
- Patrick: Hrgovic TKO-3
Omar Figueroa Jr vs Sergey Lipinets
- Scott: Lipinets UD-12
- Wil: Lipinets UD-12
- John: Lipinets UD-12
- Patrick: Lipinets TKO-6
Alberto Puello vs Batyr Akhmedov
- Scott: Akhmedov SD-12
- Wil: Akhmedov UD-12
- John: Akhmedov TKO-9
- Patrick: Akhmedov TKO-10
Roger Gutierrez vs Hector Garcia
- Scott: Garcia UD-12
- Wil: Garcia UD-12
- John: Gutierrez MD-12
- Patrick: Garcia TKO-9