Anthony Joshua arguably owns the best resume of any current heavyweight fighter, and his next test is arguably his trickiest.
The WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) will fight Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) on Saturday at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the United Kingdom.
The former cruiserweight king and WBO heavyweight mandatory challenger Usyk transitioned into the boxing’s glamour division in 2019 and has since scored a stoppage win over Chazz Witherspoon and a competitive unanimous decision against Dereck Chisora.
Challenging Joshua is a big step up in class for Usyk.
If you ask the British boxer, Joshua proclaims the better-conditioned boxer will leave the ring the victor come fight night.
“The work I’ve done in the ring, I haven’t done much pad work but a lot of heavy bag work and sparring – which has helped condition me for the fight because it’s going to be a fight of conditioning,” said Joshua. “We all know he’s a great twelve-round fighter at cruiserweight, I’m a knockout puncher as well so I’m going to be looking for the knockout but also box my way to twelve rounds if it needs to go that far.
“For this fight [Usyk] I’ve done that already, you have to go in there to box but I’m a boxer, fighter. I’m going in there to fight as well; I’m going in there for the knockout. When you go in there for knockout it’s good because you box anyway, I’m going to box looking for great opportunities to land big power shots as well. Different ballgame, different fighter, different tactics, but ultimately as a fighter you have to go in there looking for the knockouts. I’m going to be a boxer fighter in this fight.”
Joshua has looked impressive in back-to-back fights after suffering his first career loss in a shocking knockout to Andy Ruiz in June 2019.
Joshua immediately pursued and prevailed in a rematch against Ruiz later that year and returned last December to knock out IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev.
The 2012 Olympics gold medalist Joshua deems Usyk, one of the sport’s pound-for-pound, a worthy challenger.
“It’s just a great opportunity for boxing. People want to see these fights, obviously we were trying to get the undisputed fight before, but that fell through. When you want to challenge yourself, you always want the next best thing, Usyk was the next best thing in line – my mandatory,” said Joshua.
“People know [Usyk’s] good, people have watched him, kind of like an unknown quantity in parts of the world but we’re going to bring it all to the forefront for one of the biggest prizes in sport which is the heavyweight championship of the world.”
“When we look at Oleksandr Usyk, we have to look at his ability boxing wise which all of us have at the top level. As you know at heavyweight, not only to you have to be good, you have to be a killer in that ring – you have to knock your opponent. We can take punishment more than these smaller guys, we’re used to big punches, everyday I’m getting hit by guys that are 18 stone. I build up a certain resilience in my body, it is true that will a cruiserweight be able to damage me because I’ve been used to big guys hitting me for so long.
“The only time in the heavyweight division his success will come to fruition, these heavyweights are lazy. Will they have the stamina to go, he will lighter and have more stamina, he will move good for twelve rounds, then a big guy looking for power who may fatigue himself in the later rounds. That’s the only advantage he’ll have, so a good fighter who’s well-conditioned, dedicated, understands the tactics, and can fight for twelve rounds will give him a good fight and potentially beat him in my opinion. If he has a lot of heart and passion it will be a great fight, which we’re going to have on September 25.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com