Oleksandr Usyk says that he expects to be the only one standing at the end of his world heavyweight title fight against Anthony Joshua, which has finally been confirmed for September 25.
“The path will be mastered by the walking one,” said Usyk in the official announcement for the fight, clearly hinting that Joshua would not be walking at the end.
Joshua will put his WBA, IBO, WBO and IBF titles on the line against the Ukrainian, the WBO’s mandatory contender, who was undisputed world champion at cruiserweight, in a fight that will take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London.
“The date is set and we are fully locked in,” said Joshua. "September 25, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I put it all on the line again and it’s time to defend my crown. We are two Olympic Gold medallists who have fought our way to the top and never avoided challenges.
“The stadium is exceptional, the atmosphere will be electric, I’m honoured to be the first person to fight in such an awe-inspiring venue. The stage is set and I am ready to handle business.”
Joshua was forced to turn to Usyk once plans for a fight with Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title were scuppered. Originally it was pencilled in for August 14 - the same date that Joshua had expected to face Fury, before a United States judge ruled that Fury had to face Deontay Wilder instead – but Joshua decided to take two weeks off training to refocus on Usyk, so a later date was selected.
Usyk is no stranger to boxing in Britain. He beat Derek Chisora last year at Wembley, having previously knocked out Tony Bellew in Manchester in defence of his cruiserweight crown. As an amateur, he won a European gold medal in Liverpool in 2008, won Olympic gold in London at heavyweight in 2012 (the day before Joshua won super-heavyweight gold) and even beat Joe Joyce in a World Series of Boxing match at York Hall in 2013.
“Olympic Gold vs. Olympic Gold, Unified World Heavyweight Champion vs. Undisputed Cruiserweight World Champion this one has it all and I can’t wait to stage this huge event in front of over 60,000 at the stunning Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 25,” said Eddie Hearn, the promoter.
It will be the first time that the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which opened in 2019, has been used for boxing. It had due to be the venue for Joshua’s defence against Kubrat Pulev in the summer of 2020, but that was postponed due to the pandemic.
Tottenham’s previous stadium, White Hart Lane, which stood on virtually the same spot was often used for fights, most recently in 1991, with Chris Eubank’s tragic fight against Michael Watson. It was last used for a big heavyweight fight in 1987, when Frank Bruno beat Joe Bugner. But there were other big fights at Tottenham, such as the 1942 clash between Freddie Mills and Len Harvey, when Mills knocked Harvey through the ropes and straight down to the pitch below.
“This is a huge occasion for Tottenham Hotspur Stadium,” said Daniel Levy, the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur. “Anthony Joshua is an icon in the world of sport and to have him fight here in London N17, against a top opponent in Oleksandr Usyk, will be amazing for the area of Tottenham. This event will once again showcase the stadium’s ability to take the hosting of world-class sporting occasions to the next level – we cannot wait for September 25.”
The fight will be live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK and Ireland, the final fight of their present deal with Joshua.
Adam Smith, the head of boxing development at Sky, said: “Anthony Joshua is back, live on Sky Sports Box Office, in an epic evening of world heavyweight title action on September 25. We’ve followed Anthony Joshua’s enthralling journey since the very start - and now Ukraine’s pound-for-pound star Oleksandr Usyk stands in the way of AJ’s ultimate ambition of becoming an undisputed world champion.
“The unbeaten Usyk is returning to the city where he struck gold at the same Olympic Games as AJ and we know him well from that dramatic win over Tony Bellew and a breathless battle with Derek Chisora. I couldn’t be more delighted after working for two years to secure a spectacular heavyweight showdown at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, a stunning backdrop for fight fans as Joshua vs. Usyk lights up London.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.