Saturday night is a huge night of boxing and it’s the biggest night of Anthony Joshua’s illustrious career, as he looks to gain revenge over Oleksandr Usyk. Victory will see him become a heavyweight champion for a third time, and with Tyson Fury supposedly retired, a Joshua win will see him become number one and usher in what I believe is set to be new era for the heavyweight division.
No one is more aware of the daunting task facing Joshua this weekend than myself. Four years ago, the final fight of my career ended in defeat when I was stopped by the brilliant Ukrainian. Although I was competitive in the fight’s early going, the pace set by Usyk and the traps he set were just too much for me and I found out what it’s like to be in the ring with an absolutely elite fighter.
If you listened to me in the build-up to the first Joshua vs. Usyk fight, I spoke several times about the way Usyk uses his feints, his footwork, and his ability to control the pace. He was at it again against Joshua and after building a commanding lead, Usyk finished strongly as Joshua appeared to run out of ideas. Something big must change from Joshua if he’s to win his belts back.
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He’s made monumental changes to his team heading into this fight, but until the fight happens, we’re not going to know whether these will be beneficial. Robert Garcia is an outstanding coach and it'll be interesting to see what he can get from Joshua. He's made many great fighters respond to his methods and I'm confident Joshua will be next.
Is Garcia the man to get Joshua to take more risks? We’ll soon find out, but what I expect is a more aggressive ‘AJ’ and someone who’s going to make a fast start. Joshua has to make his size tell in this fight and that’s just not using his reach and power, it’s getting in close and letting Usyk feel him. Hold and maul so Usyk can’t get any rhythm like the first fight. It’s a tall order but I’m going to back Joshua to get the job done by knockout if he applies himself correctly.
If successful, Joshua will once again have a huge target on his back as he looks to enjoy a third reign as heavyweight champion. With Fury gone, the likes of Deontay Wilder, Joe Joyce, and Filip Hrgovic will all want a piece of him, and we might even see Usyk pursue a third fight. The possibilities are there for the division to thrive for a very long time, but for now, the focus is all on Saturday and the stakes couldn’t be any higher for both Joshua and Usyk.