Anthony Joshua vows to be a ‘different fighter’ and not repeat ‘CRAZY’ tactics that saw him lose to Oleksandr Usyk in London last year… admitting the past 11 months have ‘been a nightmare’ while waiting for their rematch
- Anthony Joshua has vowed not to repeat his ‘crazy’ tactics on Saturday night
- The Brit is taking on Oleksandr Usyk for the second time after losing last year
- The 32-year-old says the past 11 months ‘have been a nightmare’ for him
- He insists he ‘will be a different fighter’ when the two face-off in Saudi Arabia
Anthony Joshua has warned Oleksandr Usyk that, come their $100million rematch next Saturday, he will be fighting an AJ as different from their first bout as the new venue in the Arabian desert is from their original battleground in north London.
But Usyk, who took Joshua’s world titles in that fight, shrugs and says: ‘He will find that I too will be a different fighter here in Saudi Arabia.’
Nothing, it appears, in sun-baked old Jeddah will be the same as it was in the autumnal chill of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Anthony Joshua has vowed to be ‘a different fighter’ against Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday
The Brit was beaten by unanimous decision by the Ukrainian in London last year
Usyk’s changes are physical and his much-increased muscularity. The devil is in the detail of the training which has produced them.
The former undisputed world cruiserweight champion, who has taken leave from manning the war in Ukraine to defend his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight belts, has pushed himself to new limits.
Usyk has been swimming for a quite astonishing total of five hours a day — including multiple butterfly lengths — in addition to his gym work. At 6ft 3in, Usyk is 3in shorter yet has been sparring Eastern European giants taller than the Briton. As for AJ, he is preparing to revise his curious psychology of trying to outbox rather than batter Usyk last time. It was as if he had something to prove about his skills, which was utterly unnecessary.
The explanation may be found in his sympathetic approach to the repeated delays of the rematch, from April through June and finally to August, as Usyk extricated himself from the war and worked to regain ring fitness. Says Joshua now: ‘We looked at suitable dates for Oleksandr and his team. I felt it was important for him to be ready, rather than for us to be forcing a date on them. I didn’t want us saying they had to take or leave a specific date.
Joshua says he will not repeat the ‘crazy’ tactics that saw him lose their last encounter
‘He wanted to defend the belts. I wanted us to work together. That is the way we showed our compassion for him and his country. I feel that this has worked out well for everyone in the long run.’
Joshua is unsure about how the conflict with Russia and his armed enlistment will have affected his rival. Asked whether Usyk’s mindset might be altered by fighting for his country, he answered: ‘If it was me, yes, it would have an impact. I don’t know if it would be positive or negative or how I would deal it with it. But I do know it would be tough.
‘I’ve never lived through anything like he has and have no idea what the ramifications would be for me. But I do respect him for everything he’s done. One hundred per cent. You have to defend your home. It is such a shame that civilians get the worst of wars which are political issues.’
Usyk sought the encouragement of President Volodymyr Zelensky before deciding to lay down his assault weapon and pull on the gloves. Joshua offers similar endorsement, saying: ‘I think I would have done the same as him [going to war then take this fight]. Not as a boxer or a warrior but as a general person fighting for his community. That’s what you do in war, isn’t it? Protect your home.’
The 32-year-old says he has ‘compassion’ for his opponent following the invasion of Ukraine
He insists none of that will deter him from trying to stop Usyk.
‘Maybe the way I fought him in London was crazy,’ says Joshua in response to demands that he use his size and strength to better effect next weekend.
‘Now I must make the best use I can of my height, weight and power. Because sitting on this defeat for 11 months has been a nightmare for me.’
Commercially the wait has been massively beneficial since it also gave the Saudi promoters time to fine-tune their package, with the fighters reported to be splitting $100m (£83m).
Within that Usyk has negotiated free TV transmission back to Ukraine.
Sky Sports won the UK rights with a $150 m (£123.5m) bid and will charge a British pay-per-view record £26.95. It will cost US viewers almost double — $59.99 (£49.40) on top of their monthly DAZN subscription. The high prices have infuriated customers who want to see whether Joshua can negotiate a crossroads in his career.
Sky Sports will charge a British pay-per-view record of £26.95 to watch Saturday’s bout
The perceived wisdom is that a third defeat in four fights might spell the end for him.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn insists his man will box on even if he loses again. That may depend on Tyson Fury agreeing to fight him. However, the Gypsy King, as WBC title holder, is likely to be tempted out of apparent retirement by the chance to become the first undisputed world heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis — against whoever triumphs in the so-called Rage On The Red Sea.
Since Joshua would hardly relish returning to the hurly-burly of non-title bouts in smaller halls, he needs a dramatic turnaround following his first fight with Usyk.
That will be far from easy against one of the most technically brilliant and brutally dynamic boxers in the fight game.