Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk take center stage again on August 20 when they face each other in a heavyweight rematch following the Ukrainian’s unanimous win last September.
It promises to be an exciting battle between two men who have both been at the top of the sport for the past decade.
Ten years ago, Joshua and Usyk both competed in the 2012 London Olympics in different weight divisions, with the Briton in the super heavyweight category and Usyk as heavyweight against a division lower.
Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk will face each other in a heavyweight rematch
The fight will take place in Saudi Arabia on August 20, as Joshua seeks revenge
They both struck gold and threw themselves into the limelight, all the while taking a giant step towards the success they’ve achieved as professionals ever since.
Sports post looks back at their respective Olympic triumphs leading up to their highly anticipated world title clash in Saudi Arabia.
Usyk illuminates the Copper Box
By the time he arrived in London, Usyk was an established amateur ready to compete in his second Olympics.
He was part of the Ukrainian team four years earlier as a 21-year-old in Beijing, but broke free in the quarterfinals when he was eliminated by Italy’s Clemente Russo.
However, he earned World Cup gold in 2011 and had every reason to be confident in his chances of adding to his medal collection in the English capital.
Until the draw for the tournament was announced. After receiving a bye for the quarter-finals due to his placement, Usyk was paired with Artur Beterbiev in the last eight.
The Russian has since won multiple world light-heavyweight titles as a professional, winning all of his matches to date via knockout. The task for Usyk was an important one.
After passing Artur Beterbiev, Usyk rode to victory against Tervel Pulev in his semifinal
Beterbiev had seen American Michael Hunter for the past 16 years and had the slight advantage of already being used to the Copper Box atmosphere, while Usyk came in cold.
Beterbiev came out early and there was nothing to separate the duo after the first three minutes, with the judges scoring the opening round 3-3.
In the early stages of the second round, Usyk was caught by a body shot and turned in pain, leading to a standing eight count. The Ukrainian had a hard time.
However, like all great champions, he fought back and consistently landed his left left in the latter stages of the round to take a 12-9 lead.
Despite Beterbiev maintaining the pressure on the final round, Usyk negotiated his way through and went on to win 17-13.
He had guaranteed himself a medal, and Bulgarian Tervel Pulev was waiting for Usyk in the semifinals. That last name may sound familiar – his older brother, Kubrat, challenged Wladimir Klitschko and Joshua to their heavyweight titles in the professional ranks.
However, Usyk had now found his groove and put on a dazzling display in their last four games, en route to a decisive 21-5 victory.
Usyk managed to get revenge on Clemente Russo after losing to him four years earlier
It was all set up for a gold medal clash with Russo, the man who ended Usyk’s Olympic run in 2008. Would it be repetition or revenge?
At first it looked like it was at first, as Russo opened up a 3-1 lead after the first round. Usyk couldn’t master the lightning strikes of his shorter opponent.
He started to adjust on the second round and it was all square at 8-8 heading into the final three minutes of the game.
Russo stepped forward, but Usyk’s extra class told it as the last lap went on, and by the final bell it looked like he’d done enough.
The judges confirmed this, as he won a 14-11 victory, and Usyk celebrated in the ring with some signature dances. He had realized his Olympic dream.
Usyk fell to his knees as he celebrated winning Olympic gold in London
Four years after falling short in Beijing, Usyk took his long-awaited gold medal
Joshua provides a fairytale end to London 2012
When Usyk fought at his first Olympics in 2008, Joshua was just getting started with the sport. Four years later he had reached the peak.
Joshua announced himself on the international stage at the 2011 World Championships in Baku, reaching the final before losing a razor-thin decision to home favorite Mahommedrasul Majidov. Usyk was there to watch the fascinating battle.
The following year, it was Joshua who was on home soil as the fresh-faced 22-year-old set out to win Olympic gold in London.
His first assignment was a difficult one, however, as he faced Cuban Erislandy Savon, nephew of the legendary three-time Olympic gold medalist Felix.
And Joshua’s journey to the final almost ended at the first hurdle. It was clear from the start that this was going to be a tricky style for Joshua to overcome, and he led by just a single point after the opening lap.
Joshua was put to the test by Erislandy Savon, but he just managed to get past the Cuban
The Briton kept chasing his opponent in the second, but Savon was slick, dancing out of trouble time and time again, and it was a little surprising that Joshua was two points ahead en route to the final stanza.
Savon showed a little more aggression later on and when the final bell rang it was not clear who would be the winner.
Luckily for Joshua, it was his name that was read, with the local lad claiming a 17-16 win.
He went to the quarterfinals, where he met China’s Zhang Zhilei. This was a rare occasion where Joshua was trailing, but he managed to get past this and punctuate his win with a straight right hand that sent Zhang flying to the canvas.
Zhang returned to his feet to complete the fight, but this time Joshua won with some breathing room and earned a 15-11 verdict.
Joshua made his way past China’s Zhang Zhilei, scoring a knockdown along the way
He then watched Ivan Dyckho go to the gold medal match at the Copper Box Arena
He had won a medal and in the semifinals another giant stood in his way in the form of Ivan Dychko from Kazakhstan.
Dychko refused to be bullied by Joshua, giving as good as he got for much of their game, but the Briton slowly got used to his job as he bloodied his opponent’s nose.
There was little to separate the pair, but Joshua did just enough and took a 13-11 point win.
Everything was ready for the last day. Sunday, August 12 was the date of the final, with Joshua looking for Britain’s 29th and final gold medal at the Olympics.
A known enemy stood in his way – Roberto Cammarelle from Italy. The veteran southpaw had won gold four years earlier, but was beaten by two points by Joshua in the 2011 World Cup semi-final. This promised to be a close one.
Cammarelle pushed Joshua on the back foot early on and had a narrow one point lead after three minutes.
Anthony Joshua just managed to pass Roberto Cammarelle in a close encounter
It turned out to be a restrained affair, which suited the Italian well when he started picking Joshua and went 13-10 after two rounds. It looked like AJ had to settle for silver.
Still, he hadn’t given up hope. The fight got messy, but Joshua started rushing forward knowing he needed a huge final lap. Two straight right hands pressed through Cammarelle’s defenses and at the end of the fight there was a deafening noise from the crowd.
Moments later, the sound went up a notch when Joshua was announced the victor by counting back after the judges failed to divide the duo on points.
Joshua had done it, and as he held up the British flag alongside fellow Olympic champions Lennox Lewis and Audley Harrison, the curtain fell on a glorious fortnight for Team GB.
Joshua celebrated with the British flag after winning gold in front of his home fans
He was joined by fellow Olympic champions Audley Harrison and Lennox Lewis after the final
The next chapter
Following their success in London 2012, Joshua and Usyk have gone on to shine as professionals.
Joshua has been crowned heavyweight world champion twice and has only been beaten twice in the last ten years, while Usyk became the undisputed cruiserweight champion in 2018 and has since risen in weight to beat Joshua to claim heavyweight gold.
Now Joshua gets his chance at redemption in Jeddah. If he beats Usyk, he will join the iconic Muhammad Ali and compatriot Lewis as a three-time heavyweight champion.
Alternatively, a win for Usyk would keep his name in the debate over who is currently the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
It promises to be a legendary battle for both men as they look for the next chapter in their decorated careers.
Anthony Joshua wants to become three-time world heavyweight champion
Usyk has ruled the cruiserweight division and is now creating his legacy as a heavyweight