Anthony Joshua has no intention of making things “too complicated” when he defends his world heavyweight titles against the unbeaten Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday.
The reigning IBF, WBA and WBO champion looked in excellent condition as he weighed in on Friday, tipping the scales at 240 pounds – a fraction lighter than for his previous fight, against Kubrat Pulev, at the end of 2020.
Joshua was always going to have a height and weight advantage coming into an intriguing contest at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this weekend, even if Usyk did come in at a career-high 221.25 pounds.
It is just a third outing at heavyweight for the Ukrainian, who was previously the undisputed champion at cruiserweight before moving up. His boxing abilities should not be doubted, considering his achievements as an amateur as well, but after taking on Chazz Witherspoon and Dereck Chisora previously, he is about to jump back in at the deep end nearly a year on from his last bout.
The physical differences further increase the intrigue over how each man will approach the occasion, as two fighters who struck gold at the London Olympics in 2012 meet in the English capital.
“It’s called a boxing match for a reason. I love the sweet science. I will display my boxing skills, but I won’t make it too complicated in there,” Joshua said at the final news conference.
This, of course, was not the fight the 31-year-old had expected to be next on his agenda. A deal was in place to take on Tyson Fury to reveal a new undisputed champion, but the holder of the WBC title has been ordered to take on Deontay Wilder for a third time instead.
That trilogy bout takes place on October 9 in Las Vegas, a hurdle Fury will likely have to clear if we are to see the all-British showdown that has been teased for too long, amid lengthy negotiations, social media sparring and arbitration hearings.
Before then, though, Joshua must focus on the task at hand. Usyk, the mandatory challenger for the WBO strap, is not an opponent to be taken lightly either, even if he weighed considerably less on the scales.
The result is all that matters for Joshua, who knows just what is at stake. Unlike his opponent, Usyk has little to lose – apart from that unblemished record in the pros – and everything to gain, having received the chance to spring the type of surprise that would seismically alter the heavyweight landscape.
The pair took part in a tense head-to-head showdown after weighing in, though they did share a handshake and a smile before parting ways. Respectful during the build-up, it will be down to business when they next come face to face with each other.
Joshua finished an otherwise quiet 2020 in style, stopping the ever-willing but overmatched Pulev inside nine rounds in his solitary outing during the year. A small number of fans were present inside Wembley Arena amid the coronavirus pandemic, but there will be far more in attendance at the impressive home of Spurs this weekend.
That Pulev bout came just over a year after Joshua’s revenge mission against Andy Ruiz Jr, when he boxed intelligently to regain the titles he had lost against the same opponent midway through 2019 in a stunning upset on his American debut.
As for Usyk, he came through a gruelling physical test against Chisora, winning their October 2020 meeting by unanimous decision on the scorecards.
Chisora, who was left “gutted” by the final verdict, was asked in the aftermath if he felt his opponent had shown him enough to be able to beat one of the big names in the division, to which he replied: “No, because in the heavyweight game, you have to fight, not box.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
Height: 6ft 6ins (198cm)
Professional record: 24-1 (22 KOs)
Major career titles: IBF, WBA, WBO heavyweight
Height: 6ft 3ins (191cm)
Professional record: 18-0 (13 KOs)
Major career titles: IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO cruiserweight