Oleksandr Usyk explains what he learned from face-offs with Anthony Joshua

Oleksandr Usyk believes Anthony Joshua was “more tense” during their long staredowns ahead of the Ukrainian’s rematch victory.

Usyk prevailed by split decision when he put his belts on the line in Saudi Arabia with Joshua unable to exact his revenge despite showing improvement. There was a huge build-up to the event with Joshua and Usyk thrown together for multiple promo shoots and press conferences after the fight was confirmed.

During this time the pair came together in traditional style face-offs, but it was noticeable how long the pair glared into each others eyes with Joshua in particular keen to hold the gaze. And Usyk believes he learned about his opponent’s condition when spending time with him to do media events.

Oleksandr Usyk held a fierce gaze with Anthony Joshua
Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing)

“His eyes were black, the pupils were wide,” Usyk told Parimatch when assessing his tense glare-offs with Joshua during a recent interview. “I could see that he was more tense than me. But the look doesn’t matter, it is your behaviour that matters. Whether you stand and stare or if you start to move around.

“He did shadow boxing, he did it where he looked at something on my face. I can’t say anything about his confidence from them. But I’m sure that you can learn things about your opponent’s condition by looking at his behaviour from the press conference.”

The pair first came eye-to-eye last year where the face-offs were significantly more relaxed. However this time out the pair were forced to be separated by promoter Eddie Hearn in the initial announcement press conference in Saudi Arabia, before again holding a fierce gaze during the London leg of the event.

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During fight week, the pair were once again hugely respectful with Joshua even paying respects to Usyk and his family amid the ongoing events of war in their home country. However a picture-perfect shot of the pair staring each other down in front of the Red Sea saw Hearn once again try to intervene but was unable to break the pair’s stare before Joshua eventually turned away.

Events were similar in the ring with the Briton unable to break Usyk’s dominant pattern from the first fight and land any significant openings except when threatening to close the show in the ninth round. The general consensus was that Joshua had shown improvements to his game plan after switching to new trainer Robert Garcia, but Usyk was left confused by his “one-punch” tactics.

“He was really well-trained,” he continued. “But for some reason he focused on delivering one heavy punch. During the ninth round he had successful combinations and I admit I didn’t manage to dodge some of them. Yes, he was better prepared for the rematch if we compare it with the first bout. I can’t say for sure, but the eighth round was kind of restorative as I felt it.”

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