After all the build-up, the night is finally here: Anthony Joshua will take on Oleksandr Usyk in a heavyweight title fight in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia., after 10pm BST tonight.
According to Boxing Correspondent, Gareth A Davies, conventional fighting wisdom dictates this: for Joshua to find redemption on the Red Sea tonight, the Briton will have to impose himself early on Usyk. He is taller and heavier than the Ukrainian but, given their respective styles, it is unlikely that Joshua will prevail on points.
This is a huge fight, layered in nuance and taking place under a hail of criticism as a £100million money-grab, but victory for Joshua, now the underdog, will set up the biggest fight imaginable in boxing’s blue riband division: an all-British blockbuster against Tyson Fury for the undisputed crown.
There is little doubt that this is a career-defining contest for Joshua – a “woulda, shoulda, coulda” moment in his journey. Joshua, a physical behemoth, has the opportunity to dispel doubts about his mentality, hunger and ability at the elite level.
It also represents the chance to cast aside accusations that Joshua has become gun-shy since being defeated by Andy Ruiz in June 2019, when he was floored four times en route to a stoppage defeat in New York. Joshua avenged that loss in the Middle East six months later, boxing Ruiz behind the jab, winning on points but still leaving doubts about his desire to engage in exchanges of fistic firepower.
All these views must now be dispelled by the fighter, especially after his rude awakening at the hands of Usyk 11 months ago in London. It was a second career blemish, casting doubt on Joshua’s ability to change the pattern of the fight. For that reason, and for the lack of instructive advice from the corner against Usyk, Joshua left long-time trainer Rob McCracken and has been working with Robert Garcia, the Mexican-American.
Greats of the sport – including Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson – have stressed that Joshua must be clear in his own mind about what type of fighter he is: an aggressive, heavy puncher, and not a boxing stylist. He must use his jab to the body and head and unleash combinations inside. Yet should Joshua become reckless, he will be exposed, giving Usyk more opportunities to counter from the southpaw stance.