Oleksandr Usyk and heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will face each other in the boxing ring on September 25 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Many fans and experts have argued that Usyk could prove to be a real problem for the reigning champion of the division.
Anthony Joshua won the super-heavyweight Olympic gold medal and received a warm welcome back on home ground. However, in that same Olympic event in 2012, there was another young athlete who shot for gold and won big.
Gold medallist Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine (R) poses with silver medallist Clemente Russo of Italy during the presentation ceremony for the Men’s Heavy (91kg) gold medal boxing at the London Olympics August 11, 2012. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj (BRITAIN – Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT BOXING)
Oleksandr Usyk competed in the same event as Joshua in 2012. The Ukrainian won a three-round battle against his Italian opponent, Clemente Russo. He won the Olympic gold medal in the heavyweight class. With Anthony Joshua being on the same card as him, Usyk did not get enough media coverage.
With gold in the bag, the Ukraine native moved on from amateur competition. He started competing professionally at cruiserweight in late 2013. Usyk later became the unified world champion in the division after defeating Tony Bellew in 2018.
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Ahead of the clash between the two Olympic gold medalists in September, here is a detailed breakdown of Oleksandr Usyk’s fight against Clemente Russo in 2012:
Oleksandr Usyk vs Clemente Russo – London Olympics, 2012
The 2012 heavyweight clash between Usyk and Russo at the London Olympics was a close call. The Italian opponent opened strong, seemed confident, and showed composure. Oleksandr Usyk’s approach in the first round was more defense-oriented. Russo capitalized on this by delivering significant shots and even dropped his guard. Round 1 closed 3-1 in favor of Clemente Russo.
The Ukraine-native recognized his shortcomings in the opening round and switched his approach in the second round. The scenario soon flipped on Russo as he showed aggression in his striking. He also picked up on his opponent’s tendency to gauge and maintain distance to land effectively.
Russo seemed taken aback by his ability to close the distance and land a barrage of jabs and hooks to the body. At one point, he even dropped the Italian with a sharp combination of straight left and right jabs to the temple. Oleksandr Usyk won round 2 with a 7-5 score.
Oleksandr Usyk of the Ukraine (in red) stands before the fallen Clemente Russo of Italy (in blue) during the Heavyweight (91kg) boxing final of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the ExCel Arena August 11, 2012 in London. Usyk won gold on a 14-11 points decision. AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages)
The third round saw Russo open with haymakers. He seemed aggressive in his approach and could even connect few shots. However, Usyk countered most attempts with his world-class movement and footwork. Fatigued from the explosive start at the beginning of round 3, Russo’s output declined towards the end of the fight. The Ukrainian boxer was quick to capitalize on this and outscored his Italian opponent with 6-3 on the judges’ scorecards.
‘The Cat Olek’ will try to take everything away from Joshua
Even his cruiserweight title contender, Tony Bellew, stated that Usyk is an intelligent fighter and that he likes to put physical and mental pressure on his opponents right from the start. He suggested that Anthony Joshua might be in for a long night at the office.
“They’re gonna try and take everything away from him. That’s what Usyk does so well. He takes away your strengths before he looks at implementing his own strengths. And by taking away your strengths, you’re lost. The things he does with his feet – he’s exceptional,” said Tony Bellew.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 10: Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine knocks out Tony Bellew of England during the WBC, WBA, WBO, IBF & Ring Magazine World Cruiserweight Title Fight between Oleksandr Usyk and Tony Bellew at Manchester Arena on November 10, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
“He mentally exhausted me in our fight by constantly having his front foot close to mine. That doesn’t sound much. But it’s mental pressure that he puts on you, not physical. He wouldn’t get involved in any wrestling matches with me. Every time we got close, I would dig him to the body.
“He’s vicious and brilliant,” added Bellew.
Do you think Oleksandr Usyk can end Anthony Joshua’s reign?
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