Boxing Fight: This week, Oleksandr Usyk’s group discovered Anthony Joshua’s car and, while laughing, scrawled the challenger’s name in dust across the door. It was an unwelcome surprise when the champion reappeared.
It served as a reminder that, in addition to the grandeur and mutual adoration that this tremendous world heavyweight title battle engendered, there was also a healthy measure of disdain.
The most difficult fight of Joshua’s career will take place tonight at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, in front of 70,000 adoring fans.
Joshua has been in intriguing fights before, but none quite like this – the Wladimir Klitschko fight may forever define him, and the Andy Ruiz Jr rematch really divided opinion, but Usyk represents a one-of-a-kind and intricate test.
There is a dusting of stardust over the mysterious Usyk, who is undefeated and undisputed as a cruiserweight. He is a southpaw (Joshua has only boxed one and a half rounds against a left-hander in his pro career), and he is attempting to become only the third boxer in history to hold world titles at both cruiserweight and heavyweight.
The Ukrainian with the frightening smile arrived with a shaved head and a handlebar moustache, a nod to his warrior ancestors, the Cossacks of the 17th century, who fought with swords on horseback. His new expression indicates that he is serious.
He’s dressed as Batman’s adversary The Joker, then as colourful socks with aliens on them, but none of Usyk’s eccentricities amuses Joshua.
The IBF, WBA, and WBO champion has labelled this a “brain fight,” but there is definitely a fascinating physical element – after weeks of speculation that Joshua might weigh in light to match Usyk’s nimbleness, he weighed in as his normal rock-solid self.
His pre-fight workout routine was a planned attempt to keep the spotlight off the juggling and amusing Usyk. Previously, when he faced Kubrat Pulev, Joshua’s public workout consisted of him simply wrapping his hands before asking the cameras to go, but this time he also performed.
This is undoubtedly a battle that will be decided in the final few rounds, possibly with an agonising wait for the scorecards after Joshua and Usyk have thrown their greatest punches.
“I believe it will be chess at first,” Usyk said.
Joshua has warned against being drawn into Usyk’s domain, saying, “I can out-box him, of course, I can.” And I’m stronger than him.
“Of course, we have a go-to – our strength.” “I’ll play to my strengths.”
Usyk’s strengths are his movement and IQ, which means he hasn’t lost a match since he was a junior a decade ago.
He has a surprising propensity of dethroning the local favourite; in Russia, Latvia, the United States, Poland, and the United Kingdom, he has won at least seven matches in his opponent’s home country. He’ll be aware that the council estate where Joshua grew up is only a few miles away, and he’ll love the opportunity to ruin the party.
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