With the time for talking just about over entering Saturday's heavyweight championship bout pairing unified titleholder Anthony Joshua against former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, probably the most remarkable part is how little has been actually said between them.
In a division filled with larger-than-life personalities from Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder to Dereck Chisora and Dillian Whyte, the two combatants who will share the ring inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in England have been noticeably short on headline-filling words while showing each other a healthy amount of respect (1 p.m. ET, DAZN).
From the standpoint of Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs), a 34-year-old native of Ukraine and, like Joshua, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, the strategy appears to be very much calculated. Dressed in a suit from the Joker's closet of "Batman" fame during Thursday's press conference, Usyk perfectly embodied physically what goes on inside of his genius and very maniacal mind.
The 6-foot-3 southpaw, known for his dry comedic style, has chosen not to show his cards ahead of the fight. All of his interviews have been short and awkward, in fact, especially when asked how he will overcome the size difference of three inches in height, four inches in reach and 18.5 in pounds after Joshua weighed in at 240 on Friday.
"I'm not even thinking about that, whether he looks slim or tall or whatever," Usyk told IFL TV. "We are going to see on Saturday night.
"He is a really, really and very famous guy. Even old ladies in my country know who he is."
Asked specifically whether his fight-week strategy has been one of playing mind games, Usyk flashed his trademark sinister grin.
"All of life, it's game," Usyk said. He was just as glib when asked how he thinks he can pull the upset against the defending WBA, WBO and IBF champion.
"Box, boxing," Usyk said. "Boxing will happen on Saturday night."
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a complete preview of Joshua vs. Usyk on Saturday night below.
Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) hasn't been much better. He has seemingly deflected all specific questions aimed at Usyk's unique skill set as clever boxer and tactician to instead focus on why he wasn't willing to avoid a mandatory challenge against such an accomplished foe.
"I love throwback fighters," Joshua said after Thursday's final press conference. "I'm not a major historian because I spend a lot of time practicing. I don't really fight good fighters because I want people to respect me. It's not complicated. If you told me I was fighting King Kong, I would be there full. This is my job and honestly, it's a blessing. I love my work.
"I knew [Usyk would be the next opponent] about three or four months ago and I took the opportunity. Why would I be worried? As long as I can wake up the next day and be happy and blessed, what is there to worry about? It's about taking on personal challenges. I just happen to be in a position where people have interest in my job."
The winner on Saturday night will hopefully secure a showdown with the winner of Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder 3, set to go down just two weeks later. After Wilder won an arbitration hearing entitling him to a third showdown with the current WBC champion, talks of a Joshua vs. Fury matchup quickly subsided. But all parties involved seem keen on booking a fight where all four recognized heavyweight titles are on the line for the first time in the four-belt era to determine an undisputed champion.
Elsewhere on this loaded up card featuring many of the top names in England, the WBO cruiserweight champion is back in action. Lawrence Okolie will look to defend his crown when he faces off with Dilan Prasovic in the co-main event. Okolie has proven to be one of the top rising fighters in England with 13 knockouts in 16 pro fights. He's coming off a devastating knockout of Krzysztof Głowacki in March and has not seen judges' scorecards since September 2018. Plus, former WBA super middleweight champion Callum Smith returns to the ring for the first time since dropping the belt when he faces off with Lenin Castillo.
Fight card, odds
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Anthony Joshua (c) -260 vs. Oleksandr Usyk +210, WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight championship
- Lawrence Okolie (c) -2200 vs. Dilan Prasovic +1100, WBO cruiserweight championship
- Callum Smith -4000 vs. Lenin Castillo +1500, light heavyweight
- Florian Marku -700 vs. Maxim Prodan +500, welterweight
- Christopher Ousley -110 vs. Khasan Baysangurov -110, middleweight
- Campbell Hatton -3000 vs. Sonni Martinez +1300, lightweight
- Daniel Lapin -4500 vs. Pawel Martyniuk +1600, light heavyweight
- Date: Sept. 25 | Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium -- London
- Start time: 1 p.m. ET (main event set for approximately 5:10 p.m. ET)
- TV: Traditional PPV for $34.99 (check local listings)
- How to watch/stream: DAZN (subscribe now)
If Joshua can use his speed and power to discipline Usyk early or outright stop him, all the talk about the Ukrainian's wizard-like boxing skills will be moot. But it's potentially in the second half of this fight, should Usyk set enough early traps before coming on late, that things might get interesting.
It's not as if Joshua, who has the most decorated resume of the top heavyweights and might be its most well-rounded performer, is unable to box or execute a game plan. Making it feel like an all-or-nothing scenario of knockout or bust is unfair. Yet at the same time, the combination of Usyk's smarts and Joshua's noted vulnerabilities make it hard to discount the underdog's legitimate chances.
For whatever Usyk lacks in bulk or one-punch power, he's daring enough to fight in the pocket because of his speed, swiveling defense and accurate combinations. The pressure Usyk applies by doing so can produce fatigue, especially for a more muscle-bound big man like Joshua, who has endured huge stamina dumps in big fights including when he was forced to get up off the canvas to finish Wladimir Klitschko in 2017.
Should Joshua tire from Usyk bringing the fight to him without AJ making him pay for it, that's when the champion's unpredictable chin might come into play. Usyk is accurate enough with his power shots that a fatigued Joshua could find himself in trouble. The fact that Usyk proved during his incredible run to the undisputed cruiserweight championship that he can rise to the occasion in big moments -- including his majority decision unification win against Maris Briedis -- can also not be overlooked.
While Usyk needs to avoid the finishing blow throughout and show enough of a durable chin to employ such a daring style at close range, Joshua isn't as physical of a fighter in comparison to Chisora, who was able to hold and maul Usyk -- particularly to the body -- and slow down his foot speed advantage.
If Usyk has the fight of his life, it still might be an uphill battle in convincing all three judges given that AJ's fights inside deafening soccer stadiums resemble rock concerts. But Usyk is skilled enough to pull it off.
Pick: Usyk via SD12
Who will win Joshua vs. Usyk? And which 3-1 prop bet should you be all over? Visit SportsLine now to see Brandon Wise's best bets, all from the CBS combat sports specialist who has nailed some of the year's biggest fights, and find out.