Former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua knows what it takes to rebound from adversity. The 32-year-old fought in the United States for the first time in 2019 and was heavily favored against Andy Ruiz Jr. at Madison Square Garden.
However, Ruiz stunned the boxing world by getting up from a knockdown and stopping Joshua in 7, but Joshua got the rematch and ultimately got his revenge as he beat Ruiz by unanimous decision later that year.
Now, on August 20, at the King Abdullah Sports City Arena in the coastal city of Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Joshua(24-2, 22 KOs) is trying to do the same against a more challenging opponent in unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk(19-0, 13 KOs), who defeated Joshua by unanimous decision in 2021.
Joshua says he’s ready and called this a “must-win” fight.
That’s it. It’s a “must-win” fight,” he said this week. “Preparations have been tough, but I like the pressure. Robert Garcia, Angel Fernandez, members of my previous team as well; they’ve been pushing me, challenging me, ensuring I stay focused, and positioning me to get the job done and emerge victorious come Saturday night.
“I’m looking forward to it. I want to compete. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t really say muchelse, but you’ve got to have a competitive spirit. I’m prepared to do whatever it takes, and I’m looking forward to competing this weekend.”
Usyk, 35, expects the rematch to be a very great fight.
“We learned from each other in the first fight, but this is a continuation, and the first round on Saturday will be round 13,” Usyk said. “We had enough time to study each other. We were born to compete for life, for belts, for everything. The one who does not compete does not win. All our lives are competitions for something or somebody. That’s why we are competing. We’ve had enough time to study each other, and this Saturday will be a great, great fight.”
Joshua has a new trainer in Robert Garcia, and again, we’ve seen what he did in the rematch against Ruiz. He avoided fighting inside and used his size and jab to get the job done. Joshua will have to use his size(6-5, 244 pounds) to defeat Usyk(6-3, 221 pounds). Joshua has the power to drop and stop Usyk, while the Ukrainian is a technician and skills pay the bills, which favors Usyk.
Joshua tried to box Usyk in their first fight; it appears to get the win in the rematch, he must make it a little dirty.
In reality, Usyk did not look great in his first two fights at heavyweight, but he put it all together against Joshua. This is his fourth fight at heavyweight, and it appears he has grown into the weight.
It’s hard to pick against Usyk, but you can’t dismiss the fight in Joshua. My mind says Usyk, but my heart is telling me, Joshua.
Winner: Joshua by split decision.
Photo credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
Before June 1, former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua(22-1, 21 KOs) was considered by many to be the best heavyweight in boxing, but then Andy Ruiz(33-1, 22 KOs) happened, and the rest is history.
Ruiz stopped the 30-year-old Joshua in round 7 in their first fight at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Fortunately for Joshua, on December 7 in Saudi Arabia, he will finally have a chance to avenge his only loss as he battles Ruiz in the rematch.
On Wednesday, at the final press conference, Joshua addressed several topics.
Here is what he had to say:
On this being a great opportunity:
“It’s interesting to be on this side of the table, as you said in my 16th fight, I challenged for the world title, challenged for the title again with Klitschko, then Parker, and now I’m challenging again, so this is my fourth title challenge in a short space of time. I’m used to being in this position, and even when you’re champion, I think Andy being a respected heavyweight he knows you have to have the challenge and mindset. All these quotes that these fighters come up with is reality, challenger mindset. I’ve said that previously when I had the belts around my waist. Now I’m speaking this into existence, this is my challenge and mindset. So I’m going back to my 16th fight, focused and determined on the goal.”
On feeling less pressure without the belts:
“I’ve been boxing a while now, and when I came into boxing I didn’t really come to take part, I came to take over. I came with full force, fully committed. The focus has already been there, but never had a chance to reflect. It was European Championships, Olympics Championships, British Title, World Championships. I’m not here to put on show I’m here to win. I’ve been around the block for a short space of time, so you have to understand I’m experienced and know what I’m doing. Through reflection in my own time, me and Andy are very different, but like everyone in this room we have time. I just have to use my time and as soon as I got back from New York I got that commitment back, got into shape, I didn’t lose any heart, didn’t lose any fire in my belly, started hitting the heavy bag, preparing for this day. I’m actually really looking forward to it. No fear in my heart, no fear in my eyes. I’m just looking forward to putting on a show, and I’m confident.”
On how special a win will be:
“I was asked if this will be a special moment and I said no because I know I belong there. It’s not special, I’ve been there, I know what I’m doing. When I regain those belts I will probably keep calm and stay focused. It’s not a time to celebrate, it’s time to keep that challenge, mindset and find the next target, so one by one I’m picking them off. I’ve been doing that since I started boxing and Ruiz is just my next target on my list.”
On fighting in Saudi Arabia: “
This the Mecca of boxing I’m hearing. The real Mecca of boxing. I’m going to turn this into something special, a real event. As you can see we have put together a great undercard and a great show. I went to the venue, its perfect, perfectly designed, said my prayers, I took time to really embrace what’s going to happen Saturday. I’m just going in with confidence, and I want everyone to have that same confidence and have a great time.”
Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing