Joshua v Usyk: Can AJ Claw His Way Back?

The build-up for the Joshua v Usyk fight is intense. Join Bodog as we take you behind the scenes to unpick the variables and sharpen your bet.

AJ v Usyk is the fight to watch this month, and the build-up has been intense.

Last September, we saw Anthony Joshua take on Oleksandr Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the UK. Alas: the home advantage wasn’t advantageous enough for AJ, who was defeated by “The Cat” in a unanimous decision after the full 12 rounds.

Ukrainian Usyk beat the boxing odds as cleanly as he beat the Brit that night, taking out the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO Heavyweight titles – despite the fact that he had only recently taken up residency in the Heavyweight division.


Before that bout was even possible, Usyk took up a separate fight with the WBO to become the mandatory challenger for the Heavyweight title, arguing that his title of four-belt, undisputed Cruiserweight champion was enough to earn him a place in the ring. The WBO offered no counterpunch.

AJ, conversely, did; but in just about every quantitative metric during their fight, the Ukrainian was out ahead. He landed more punches with more precision than Joshua, and maintained a dogged consistency. Round after round, Usyk’s performance was, in a word, relentless, and culminated in the delivery of 29 blows in the 12th, more than AJ had ever copped from any opponent, and none too happily.

Former fighters and pundits were quick to praise Usyk, too. Retired boxer Roy Jones Jr. said the Ukrainian “didn’t beat [Joshua]: he dominated him”.

Unhappy with the result, Joshua’s team was quick to request a rematch between the two, suggesting it could go down in early 2022. And it likely would have, in other circumstances: the timing of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threw a hammer and sickle in the works, but the Brit remained eager to settle the score. And with that sort of endurance in him, why wouldn’t he?

AJ will get his shot at redemption this week when the rivals meet in everyone’s favourite bastion of virtue and sportsmanship, Saudi Arabia. With plenty at stake for both fighters, and with emotions expected to run high, expect nothing less than a thrilling ride. The Bodog Sportsbook has once again taken a studious eye to the facts on the ground, and our analysis, along with our experience in online betting, has reached some solid conclusions. Here they are.

Can AJ Turn Avenger?

Anthony Joshua is one of Britain’s most accomplished boxers, having enjoyed success at multiple levels. After picking up several gold medals as an amateur fighter, including one at the 2012 Olympics in London, he’s gone on to win 24 of his 26 professional fights.

He picked up his first heavyweight title back in 2014 after he beat Denis Bakhtov with a technical knockout at The O2 Arena in London. In addition to successfully defending it, Joshua has also gained the Commonwealth, British, WBA (Super), IBO, IBF, and WBO titles.

He lost most of them to Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019 following a technical knockout in the 7th round, but he regained them just a few months later in a rematch, also in Saudi Arabia.

After his defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in September last year, Joshua will be hoping that era of history can repeat itself in the Middle East.

But hope takes a ringside seat in sport while preparation takes centre stage, and the Brit has indeed prepared himself with a new trainer, the American former featherweight and super featherweight boxer, Robert Garcia. Great trainers prepare minds as well as bodies, and Garcia has reportedly focussed sharply on the psychological aspect of the fight, noting that Joshua, like any fighter would have been, was particularly affected by the loss.

Coming into the rematch, Joshua is the underdog with odds of +160, a position he’s known just once before.

Is Usyk Just Too Good?

After serving up a pasting to Joshua last September, Usyk agreed to AJ’s call for a rematch. It was originally scheduled for May, but the Ukrainian returned home in February when his country came under attack and war broke out, and Usyk, like most of his fellow countrymen, served to defend Ukrainian sovereignty in a combat role.

One can only speculate, after experiencing such brutality on a whole other scale, how these last several months have affected Usyk’s own psyche, and what kind of fight he’ll bring to AJ.

This emotional element is, in itself, cause for intense interest, with Usyk’s national identity, more so than his individual standing as a fighter, set to headline the event. Any performer could buckle under such pressures, but we know that Oleksandr Usyk has been training under far greater ones. The implications of that remain to be seen, but AJ at least, as we know from his public statements, will launch at Usyk from a foundation of respect.


From a stats perspective, Usyk isn’t dissimilar to Joshua on paper. He does, however, prefer a southpaw stance rather than his opponent’s orthodox approach, which could naturally pose a tactical challenge to any fighter accustomed to opponents with dominant right hands. Of course, AJ has 12 rounds of fight to learn from, and Garcia has surely prepared his charge for every variable.

Usyk has also bulked significantly since the two last met, adding more than 15kgs, which is 15kgs of extra weight on Joshua’s mind.

Repeat or Revenge?

With rematches like this, it’s easy to expect a re-running of the original fight, but it’s rarely that simple. (And really, who would want a carbon copy outcome, aside from the victor?)

Sure, Usyk has literally grown, and will be riding high off the confidence of their last fight, but Joshua has mentally grown, and has the advantage of prior experience.

This first-hand knowledge of the Ukrainian’s chops could and should put AJ in better stead not just to counterpunch, but to set the pace from the outset. Of course, this only works if Usyk chooses to bring the same fight to his opponent.

Right now, the odds favour a repeat insofar as the title is concerned with Usyk on -210 and Joshua on +160, but keep in mind that the odds were wrong last time and no one can truly predict the outcome.

Whoever does win could just find themselves facing Tyson Fury before too long, possibly before the year is out, or sometime in early 2023. Shortly after Fury v Whyte betting ended in victory for The Gypsy King, the British champion announced his retirement, but Fury has since revealed both an interest in taking on the winner of this match, and a loose interpretation of the concept of retirement. It seems the boxing world has an answer to Tom Brady, but no one is complaining particularly loudly in either case.

The Undercard

It won’t just be Joshua and Usyk duking it out in the ring this weekend. They’ll be joined by a sizable undercard that includes two final eliminator bouts: Callum Smith v Mathieu Bauderlique, and Fili Hrgovic v Zhilei Zhang.

It’s likely that both fights will be hard-fought and hard-won, given that all four fighters on the undercard have real grit, but those odds are far more skewed than our main act.

Badou Jack will take on Richard Rivera in the light heavyweight class. Jack is the favourite for this match with odds of -435 while Rivera sits at +320, determined to prove the sportsbooks wrong.

Female fighters Ramla Ali and Crystal Garcia Nova also feature on the card. While only 22, Nova has fought in twice as many matches as Ali winning all but two via TKO, and she’s given massive favourite odds of -3300 to Ali’s +1200.


AJ v Usyk promises to be the WBO fight of the year. With so many dimensions to this rematch, and two champions hungry for victory for starkly different reasons, it might just go down as one for the ages. Usyk will step in as the favourite, but Joshua could bring everything he’s got and more.

Place your bets at Bodog well before Round 1, and don’t miss a minute of boxing history in the making.