Sky Sports is officially on board with the Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua rematch.
The UK-based platform formally announced its plans to present the WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight title fight, which will take place August 20 at Jeddah Superdome in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The event will air live on Sky Sports Box Office, with the pre-fight price point set at £26.95.
"This rematch is a massive occasion with everything on the line and so many questions to be answered,” noted Adam Smith, head of boxing development for Sky Sports. “We can't wait to bring it to boxing fans in the UK & Ireland in true Sky Sports fashion with all the build-up it deserves."
The bout comes eleven months after their first clash, where Ukraine’s Usyk (19-0, 13KOs) claimed a twelve-round, unanimous decision over Joshua (24-2, 22KOs) last September 25 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London. That fight also aired live on Sky Sports Box Office, at the time believed to potentially be the last for Joshua as Matchroom Boxing—Joshua’s career-long promoter—already begun its migration to DAZN’s UK platform.
However, global broadcast rights for the rematch are at the control of the organizers on the ground in Saudi Arabia who presented a bidding war in the UK. Sky Sports and DAZN both expressed interest, with the former eventually winning out after reportedly posting a £25,000,000 bid. It was enough to prompt DAZN to stand down, allowing Sky to continue its run of having aired every Joshua fight since the Brit’s 2013 pro debut following his Gold medal run in the 2012 London Olympics.
"Sky Sports viewers have enjoyed a long history with AJ, watching his every fight since he turned professional in 2013,” pointed out Smith. “We also know Oleksandr Usyk very well, having had the last four of the Ukrainian's fights exclusively live on Sky Sports.”
The development—reported earlier this month by BoxingScene.com’s Ron Lewis—came on the heels of DAZN announcing its long-term global partnership with the sports streaming platform. However, it was learned that the deal was external to network rights for the rematch with Usyk.
Joshua attempts to become a three-time heavyweight titlist, having won his first belt in April 2016 when he scored a second-round knockout of then-unbeaten IBF titlist Charles Martin.
Six successful defenses followed, collecting the WBA, WBO and IBO belts along the way. Included among the run was his April 2017 off-the-canvas, eleventh-round knockout of Wladimir Klitschko in front of a then-record crowd of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium. The epic clash was hailed as the 2017 Fight of the Year. It also marked an incredible box office run for Joshua, who drew a combined total of roughly 320,000 fans in attendance over a four-fight stretch from Klitschko through his September 2018 knockout of Alexander Povetkin.
The stretch was followed by his US debut, which ended in disaster. Andy Ruiz made history at Joshua’s expense, recovering from a third-round knockdown to score four of his own in a seventh-round stoppage in their June 2019 title fight at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Ruiz became the first fighter of Mexican descent to claim a piece of the heavyweight crown, though Joshua avenged the defeat six months later with a December 2019 points win in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
Joshua’s second reign saw just one successful defense stretched out over a 21-month period, largely due to the pandemic. His ninth-round stoppage of Kubrat Pulev in December 2020 was followed by his loss to Usyk, who became a two-division titlist with the upset win.
Usyk—who also claimed Olympic Gold in London 2012—previously served as the undisputed cruiserweight champion, having defeated three unbeaten titlists on the road. The Ukrainian southpaw has become boxing’s ultimate road warrior in that regard, with the Joshua rematch marking his ninth trip in as many title fights outside of his home country. Seven of the nine have taken place in his opponent’s home region, including all four title wins.
Televised rights outside of the UK have yet to be revealed as this goes to publish. DAZN has served as the US provider for every fight involving Joshua from his September 2018 win over Povetkin onward. Each of Usyk’s last four fights have aired on DAZN in the US, dating back to his November 2018 knockout of former cruiserweight titlist Tony Bellew on the road in Manchester, England.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox