Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2: Concern raised over Ukrainian's 'huge' new physique

Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2: Concern raised over Ukrainian's 'huge' new physique

When a video emerged on Sky Sports last week of Oleksandr Usyk playing tennis with his camp, it was noticeable that he had undergone a huge physical transformation.

The Ukrainian fighter looked considerably bulkier than the last time he fought Anthony Joshua back in September of last year.

The clip was initially greeted with delight by fans of Usyk and detractors of Joshua, with the consensus amongst viewers being that the Brit wouldn’t survive the full 12 rounds this time around.

However, former boxer and current Sky Sports Boxing analyst Dave Coldwell has raised concerns over Usyk’s weight gain.

Talking to Express Sport, the former coach of Tony Bellew explained that the former undisputed cruiserweight world champion’s heavier frame would come at the expense of two of his biggest strengths; his mobility and speed.

“From an Usyk point of view, I get that he is going to be more aggressive and look to land bigger shots, but with his mobility and speed being his two greatest assets they will take a hit. It’s going to slow him down, if you’re losing speed, you’re giving more options to be hit and not only that I believe that AJ really needs to focus on going to Usyk’s body to take away his legs.”

Read more: Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk 2: Date, Card, UK Start Time, Ring Walks, Tickets, Live Stream, Odds and More

Following his move up in divisions to heavyweight, Usyk has had to rely on these two traits to outbox much taller and more powerful opposition.

He weighed 100kg for his first fight with Joshua, 9kg lighter than the Brit and 7cm shorter. Many assumed Joshua would defend his title by using an aggressive approach, maximising his reach and weight advantage. However, Usyk put on a masterclass in jabbing and moving around a bigger man and was able to outmanoeuvre his opponent throughout the 12 rounds in a unanimous decision victory.

This emphasis on bulking may point to a change in strategy for the 35-year-old, perhaps aiming to land bigger blows and end the bout early, but Coldwell is convinced that this will play into Joshua’s hands, explaining: “Now, if that is what he’s going for and he’s looking at landing to the body then if you put on manufactured weight and muscle mass, then when you’re getting banged downstairs to the body you tend to gas a little quicker.

“We always look at AJ and say ‘he’s too big, he’s too bulky’ and that’s why he gasses out quicker and so if you land a few body shots on him he tends to gas quicker. Not just AJ, but in general a lot of fighters that have that high muscle density.

Endurance has long been a topic of discussion when it comes to Joshua’s fights, with criticism in this department usually reserved for the fighter from Watford.

Many critics have accused AJ of being too bulky and use that to explain why he struggles going the full distance. The Saudi heat and extra weight looked likely to do him no favours in the ring, but now his opponent seems substantially heavier than initially anticipated, perhaps AJ’s stamina won’t be such a bone of contention this time around.

Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2: Concern raised over Ukrainian's 'huge' new physique
Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2: Concern raised over Ukrainian’s ‘huge’ new physique

However, as with all leaked footage, we should take everything that we see with a pinch of salt. To get a substantial insight into how the fight will pan out, fans will have to wait until the weigh-in.

But should Usyk arrive in the Middle East with a more powerful frame, it will certainly add an element of surprise for what is shaping up to be a thriller.

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