It’s not Tyson Fury but in Oleksandr Usyk, Anthony Joshua has a blockbuster fight against a formidable opponent.
AJ’s world heavyweight title defence against his WBO mandatory challenger was confirmed this week for September 25 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Not only will the Brit’s belts be on the line when these two giants collide, but the super fight with Tyson Fury that lies in wait will also be at stake.
Anthony Joshua will defend his four world heavyweight title belts against Oleksandr Usyk
Do the business against Usyk and the undisputed fight could be next. Lose, and it will be further away than ever.
Usyk will no doubt have his own ambitions of getting involved in the title mix and as a former undisputed cruiserweight champion, will feel he poses a serious threat to Joshua’s goal of picking up every heavyweight title.
With little over eight weeks to go, Sportsmail take a look at the early predictions from current and former fighters as well as boxing pundits and experts.
‘I don’t believe Usyk is a heavyweight for one. I think he’s a pumped-up cruiserweight who struggles with heavyweights.
‘In my opinion, Derek Chisora beat Oleksandr Usyk – he certainly struggled with Derek Chisora and Joshua is a much bigger, stronger man than Derek.
‘I think he walks straight through Usyk. People are trying to build it up as a scary fight but he didn’t have the power to halt cruiserweights like Mairis Briedis or whoever else he fought.’
Tyson Fury believes Joshua will be too big and strong for ‘pumped-up cruiserweight’ Usyk
‘I think it will take four, five, maybe six rounds until AJ starts nailing him cleanly with the two and the three punch combinations.
‘I think at that stage he may be behind on points even, but I think he will catch up with him from round six onwards and I do think it will be an AJ victory.
‘But make no mistake about it, it’s a very, very hard fight and an even harder fight now that he’s taken Lomachenko onboard.’
‘Did his performance against Chisora answer questions for me to say, “Usyk belongs in there with Tyson Fury, or with Anthony Joshua, or even with someone like Deontay Wilder?” I’m not so sure it does.
‘I think he would struggle. The pace and pressure from Anthony Joshua, and the combination punches.
‘An even bigger, heavier, more solid, fresher heavyweight like AJ – and he lands more effective shots on the target. I don’t know if that’s answered the questions for me. I’m not putting him up there with the top three heavyweights in the world.’
Carl Froch was unimpressed with Usyk against Chisora and believes he’ll struggle against AJ
‘It’s a dead fight. Usyk hasn’t looked good.
‘Who has he fought at heavyweight? Chazz Witherspoon, Derek Chisora. He looked terrible in the fights. He has no punch power.
‘Okay, he’s got good movement, but it’s not nice movement. At cruiserweight his movement was nice, but at heavyweight, his movement is not nice. It’s just so negative.
‘These guys know. You can say what you want about me, but there are two things that they cannot deny.
‘I always come to fight and anyone that fights me, you will know that you’ve been in a fight, regardless, win, lose or draw.
‘The two fights I lost, the guys took major damage.
‘Anthony Joshua almost got knocked out when I fought him. If you watch the clips back you hear him saying, ‘If I took one more body shot from him, I would have folded in half’.
‘These guys know regardless, win, lose or draw. I come to give work.’
Dillian Whyte insisted Usyk has ‘no power’ and has looked ‘terrible’ since moving up
‘Anthony Joshua is defending his belts against a tricky southpaw in Oleksandr Usyk in September. Tyson was supposed to fight him but that didn’t happen due to legal reasons and he also has a tough assignment.
‘I have full confidence in Tyson’s ability to do a job on Wilder again but I’m less sure that AJ can overcome the obstacle in front of him. Usyk conquered the world at cruiserweight, unifying all the belts, and since moving up to heavyweight has remained unbeaten.’
‘Of course I believe he (Usyk) can win.
‘He has a very big chance but it won’t be easy because Joshua also knows what he must do in the ring.
‘Joshua also knows boxing, he has also had amateur experience.
‘It will be an interesting fight, very interesting.
‘Joshua is bigger but Oleksandr is much faster. It will be a fight between styles.’
Vasyl Lomachenko believes his compatriot is faster than AJ and has a huge chance of winning
‘I will happily take on whoever wins, but I would love the opportunity to fight Joshua.
‘I think he will want to fight Fury so we will have to see what happens there, but I am on the WBO track and looking to be made mandatory.
‘I think Usyk could be a tricky fight for Joshua, but he should knock him out sooner or later you would think.
‘It is heavyweight boxing, so you never know, but Usyk is no joke. He is an Olympic gold medallist, a very skilled southpaw, so he will probably pose Joshua problems with his good footwork and ringcraft.
‘I do think Joshua will get to him, sooner or later.’
‘I think Joshua has his hands full with Usyk. I give Usyk a hell of a chance to beat Joshua in that fight.’
Bob Arum, co-promoter of Fury, has also refused to rule out Usyk beating Joshua in September
‘He’s [Oleksandr Usyk] very dangerous.
‘It’s not a walk in the park. Forget cruiserweight. This guy, he’s had a couple of fights in the heavyweight division, he’s adjusted, he’s put the necessary weight on.’
‘Usyk is good. He’s a world-class cruiserweight, [he’s] proved it.
‘But AJ is a big dude and he’s got a good array of boxing skills and he’s a big strong man.
‘And I just think he’s all around too good for Usyk.
‘Usyk won’t be able to hit hard enough to bother him because he’s too small. He’ll walk straight through.
‘I think AJ will stop him quicker than anybody else. I think AJ will walk straight through him. I do.’
Fury’s father John (above) is confident that Joshua will ‘walk right through’ Usyk
‘I don’t know that Joshua beats Usyk, I think Usyk is a marquee fighter. In my own mind, he’s a marquee fighter.
‘With all the best fighters in the world, especially the ones who aren’t huge punchers, it’s the quickness of their boxing brain that sets them apart. Usyk thinks fast.’
‘Usyk will defeat Joshua, 10,000%. Place your bets.’