It does, to a certain degree, feel like the heavyweight division is in limbo once more as contractual obligations and an overly cautious approach when it comes to committing to fights dominates the landscape. If you’re currently feeling quite unenthused about the upcoming bouts over the remainder of 2021, you’re certainly not alone. Many fight fans are unable to muster the energy to watch fights that are in reality, just a means to an end.
Across the Atlantic and away from Ireland, they’re doing everything they can to sell the third instalment of the Wilder vs Fury bout that is scheduled for the 24th of July in Las Vegas. This should, theoretically, be a fight that brings the world to a standstill. But after such a resounding win for Fury in early 2020, it does feel like the gulf in class has been completely and utterly exposed.
When one considers that Tyson Fury was meant to be fighting Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia instead of going head-to-head with a man that he is quite obviously better than, well, everyone is left feeling a bit deflated.
Times have indeed moved on from the hype of their first fight and their opening face-off in Northern Ireland, as irish-boxing.com recalls here. The sense of anticipation has gone, with Fury proven to be the more skilled boxer by far.
Indeed, as far as Fury’s fight with Wilder goes, it does feel like a damp squib. But there have been a few developments in terms of Joshua’s fight with Oleksandr Usyk that could reignite the interest in the heavyweight division for the remainder of 2021.
Usyk Looks to His past to Beat Joshua
At first, it was much the same feeling of lethargy around Joshua’s next fight as he was instructed to fight Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk. Whilst Usyk had boxed impressively in his last fight against Derek Chisora and had maintained his undefeated record, he didn’t seem to have enough power to trouble a fighter of Joshua’s ability.
There were also questions regarding whether Usyk did indeed belong in the heavyweight arena after long spells in the cruiserweight division. Yes, he answered the call against Chisora, but the 37-year-old is a shadow of his former self and light-years away from the challenge that Usyk would face from Joshua.
That was, however, until he acquired the services of legendary Ukrainian trainer Anatoly Lomachenko, father of the dangerous Vasyl Lomachenko.
Usyk has teamed up with Lomachenko before, during his days as an amateur where the 56-year-old took up the role of mentor. Their professional setup now is naturally world’s away from that and to many, it’s a surprise that Lomachenko has even agreed to train Usyk in the build-up to his fight with Joshua.
The famed Ukrainian trainer does of course treat Usyk well, as he is best friends with his son, Vasyl, but it is an entirely different proposition to team up in a professional capacity. It’s undoubtedly a coup for Usyk given the pedigree that Lomachenko possesses, having coached his son to become a three-division champion as well as training multiple Ukrainian Olympians. There are few better in the business and Lomachenko’s inclusion in Usyk’s corner has blown the Joshua fight wide open.
A Flutter in the Markets
Revealingly, the odds have fallen steeply since the news with Usyk at just 2/1 now to beat Joshua. If you think about some of Joshua’s opponents in the past and the odds they have been priced at, you’ll see why this matters. Indeed, as asiabet.org expertly recaps here in a section about understanding boxing odds, the betting guide looks back on the occasion when Andy Ruiz faced the unbeaten Anthony Joshua for the first time, bookmakers were giving odds as high as 10/1 on the Mexican to win.
As we have always been told, one of the exciting things about betting on boxing is it only takes one surprise punch for an unfancied boxer to win, and that’s what happened in Ruiz’s case. Crucially though, Ruiz’s odds were almost five times what Usyk’s are. So, in reality, a win for the Ukrainian won’t be anywhere near as big a surprise.
Irrespective of what one’s thoughts are about the outcome of their upcoming showdown in September, the fact that Lomachenko has agreed to assist Usyk is a development that shouldn’t go unnoticed. In many ways, the ante in the heavyweight division has been dramatically raised and the feeling of jeopardy would have returned to Joshua’s training camp. At last, boxing fans have a fight to look forward to once more.