Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua will meet July 23 in a rematch for the unified heavyweight championship, likely in Saudi Arabia, sources told ESPN.
When they met in September in London, Joshua entered with three heavyweight titles but Usyk wrested the championship in dominant fashion. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion appeared on the brink of scoring the stoppage in the final round, but settled for a unanimous decision via 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113.
Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) quickly exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch, but the timing of the bout was in disarray due to the war in Usyk’s native Ukraine. The 35-year-old was part of a territorial defense battalion in Kiev before he ultimately decided to leave the war-torn country last month to begin training camp and proceed with the rematch this summer.
“Luckily I did not see much of war,” Usyk told YouTube channel Blockasset this week. “But what I see and what I know from my relatives and my friends is terrible. … Some of my friends are missing and we do not know where they are now. Many of my relatives lost their homes and lost their friends and loved ones.”
“All that is going on now is quite horrible in Ukraine,” he added. “Every day I pray for the soonest possible end of this horror. In comparison with war, boxing is child’s play.”
Joshua, a 32-year-old native of England, is no stranger to title rematches in Saudi Arabia. After he was upset by Andy Ruiz Jr., via seventh-round TKO in June 2019 in New York, Joshua regained his titles with a decision victory over Ruiz in December of that year in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh.
Usyk and Joshua both captured gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games in London; Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) in the heavyweight division and Joshua at super heavyweight. Joshua was a slight favorite when they fought last year, but Usyk’s speed and superior boxing mind carried him to victory.
Usyk’s win over Joshua was just his third fight at heavyweight. He previously captured the undisputed cruiserweight championship, a run that featured wins over Murat Gassiev, Tony Bellew and Mairis Briedis.
His impressive feats in two divisions lifted him to the No. 4 spot on ESPN’s pound-for-pound list (Usyk is rated No. 2 at heavyweight behind Tyson Fury).
Joshua, ESPN’s No. 4 heavyweight, owns wins over Wladimir Klitschko, Dillian Whyte and Joseph Parker. He will attempt to become a three-time heavyweight champion and once again exact revenge over a foe who defeated him.
Fury, who holds the WBC heavyweight title, meets Whyte on April 23 in London on ESPN PPV. A clash between the winner and victor of Usyk-Joshua 2 would crown boxing’s first undisputed heavyweight champion in the four-belt era.