Anthony Joshua made a curious admission just days before he’s set to challenge Oleksandr Usyk in a rematch Saturday at the Jeddah Superdome in Saudi Arabia.
Eleven months ago, Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) scored a definitive unanimous decision victory against Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) to win the WBA, WBO, IBF, and IBO titles.
Usyk outlanded Joshua 148 to 123. Of the 641 punches Joshua threw, apparently, none had mean intentions.
“It sounds crazy but I'm not going to lie. My objective was never to hurt him, to land damaging punches. My aim was to go the full 12 rounds and prove I could box as well as he does. To land scoring punches,” Joshua told Daily Mail.
“I do want to do him harm this time, despite all my respect for what he has done in the war in Ukraine. I do know that if I use my elements of height and strength I will have a better chance of winning.
“But I didn't work hard enough to prepare for a 12-round fight at that pace. I wasn't in the right mindset. That of wanting to go in there and smash him. Using my size and power this time is evident, isn't it? But to work on it is easier said than done.
“Right after, in the changing room, I knew I would fight again. I was telling everyone: Come on. What the f***. We are warriors. We lost a fight but not the war. This is an ongoing battle. It's not over till it's over. That's how I remotivated my team. Nothing should dishearten you. I have to keep that mentality. For the rest of my life. Even if I stumble privately or publicly.”
Joshua stumbled in the squared circle for the second time in four fights.
In 2019, he suffered his first career defeat when Andy Ruiz Jr. dropped him four times en route to a seventh-round stoppage.
Joshua regained the titles he lost to Ruiz in Saudi Arabia in a rematch, and he’s hoping to repeat the same script against Usyk.
“Records matter now because people forget quickly these days. But I study the win-loss records of the famous endlessly, and boxers who consistently fight the best rarely go undefeated throughout their career. Annoying as it is, I know I have to cope with losing. I fight the best,” said Joshua.
“But it has been a nightmare just sitting on this loss for so many months. The time frame does change every day. I have dedicated a lot of my life to a very tough sport. I will do this for as long as I can but I think I'm quite smart at business now. I will be 33 shortly and a lot will come down to how long my body can hang on.”
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.