Oleksandr Usyk put to rest any talk of his coming in significantly heavier for his rematch with Anthony Joshua.
The two-division and reigning unified heavyweight champ tipped the scales at a fight-ready 221 ½ pounds, almost identical to his weight for his upset win over Joshua nearly one year ago. Joshua was 244 ½ pounds, four pounds heavier than his weight of 240 pounds their first fight last September as he bids to become a three-time unified heavyweight titlist.
The two meet in a widely anticipated rematch, with the WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight titles at stake in their scheduled 12-round main event. The bout and its accompanying undercard will air live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK and on DAZN in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. U.S. fans who don’t wish to commit to a monthly DAZN subscription can also watch the fight on PPV.com, for a one-time $49.99 purchase fee.
Both fighters appear in the ring for the first time since their 12-round clash last September at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London. Usyk (19-0, 13KOs) outboxed and outfought Joshua over twelve-rounds, claiming a well-earned unanimous decision to become a two-division world champion in their battle of 2012 Olympic Gold medalists.
The rematch was delayed by several months in part due to Usyk—a former undisputed cruiserweight champion—initially joining a Ukrainian defense battalion at the start of the ongoing war with invading Russia. The 35-year-old Ukrainian southpaw was permitted to step down from post on March 22 to resume his career, as a father of three young children makes him exempt from Ukraine martial law requiring fit men aged 18 to 60 from serving during wartime.
From there came the search for the perfect venue to satisfy purse demands, leading to Eddie Hearn and his Matchroom Boxing outfit returning to the Middle East.
The trend is a familiar one for Joshua (24-2, 22KOs), whose lone other fight on Saudi soil came in avenging his first career defeat. The hulking Brit from Watford—who turns 33 in October—overcame a seventh-round knockout loss to Andy Ruiz in June 2019 to outpoint the Mexican heavyweight in their December 2019 rematch in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Just one title defense followed, a ninth-round knockout of Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev in their December 2020 IBF mandatory title fight at Wembley’s SSE Arena.
Also on the show:
Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic (14-0, 12KOs) faces China’s Zhang Zhilei (24-0-1, 19KOs) in a 12-round contest to determine the IBF heavyweight mandatory challenger. Hrgovic—a 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist—checked in at 243 pounds. Zhieli—who captured a silver medal for China in the 2008 Beijing Olympics—was 277.1 pounds. The bout was previously due to take place in May, delayed by three months as Hrgovic mourned the loss of his father earlier this year.
Former WBA super middleweight titlist Callum Smith and France’s Mathieu Bauderlique collide in a 12-round WBC light heavyweight title eliminator. Liverpool’s Smith (28-1, 20KOs) was 174. pounds for his second fight since moving up to light heavyweight; Bauderlique (21-1, 12KOs) was 79.15 pounds.
Former super middleweight and light heavyweight titlist Badou Jack (26-3-3, 16KOs) faces unbeaten Richard ‘Popeye The Sailor Man’ Rivera (21-0, 16KOs) in a scheduled eight round cruiserweight contest. Jack ‘The Ripper’—a 2012 Olympian for Sweden who now lives in Las Vegas—was 199 pounds for his third straight fight in the Middle East. Hartford’s Rivera moves up from light heavyweight, tipping the scales at a career heaviest 194.9 pounds.
Ramla Ali adds to an already historic boxing journey, as she and Dominican Republic’s Crystal Garcia Nova collide in the first-ever fight between female boxers on Saudi Arabia soil. Ali (6-0, 1KOs) was 55.65 pounds for her scheduled eight round bout with Garcia, who weighed 122.9 pounds. Ali—a Somali refugee based out of London—was the first-ever Somali won to box in the Olympics, representing her birth country last summer in Tokyo.
Below are the weights for the rest of the undercard.
Ziyad Almaayouf (pro debut), Los Angeles, 139.3 pounds (63.2 kg) vs. Jose Alfredo Alatorre (pro debut), 136.9 pounds (62.1 kg), La Paz, Mexico—4 rounds, junior welterweight
Andrew Tabiti (19-1, 15KOs), Las Vegas, 216 ¾ pounds vs. James Wilson (7-0-1, 6KOs), North Hollywood, California, 238 ½ pounds—8 rounds, heavyweight
Ben Whittaker (1-0, 1KO), Birmingham, UK, 173 ¾ pounds vs. Petar Nosic (6-0, 3KOs), Vrgorac, Croatia, 175 ¼ pounds—6 rounds, light heavyweight
Daniel Lapan (5-0, 0KOs), Kiev, Ukraine, 173 pounds vs. Josef Jurko (9-6-1, 6KOs), Kosice, Slovakia, 176.1 pounds—8 round, light heavyweight
Bader Samreen (5-0, 4KOs), Amman, Jordan, 136 ¼ pounds vs. Fuad Taverdi (5-2, 4KOs), Lankara, Azerbaijan, 135.8 pounds—6 rounds, lightweight
Rashet Belhasa (pro debut), Dubai, 148 ½ pounds vs. Traycho Georgiev (0-3, 0KOs), Sofia, Bulgaria, 147 pounds—4 rounds, junior welterweight
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox