Anthony Joshua eyes revenge and redemption in Oleksandr Usyk rematch
19th August 2022



Usyk is here with the tearful blessing of his wounded comrades in arms. He never wanted to leave his suburb in Kyiv, the place he has been defending since the start of the Russian invasion, but he was told there was a higher calling – he had to defend his three world heavyweight belts for his country and the fallen. Has any fighter in history fought with such a burden?

Joshua is still only 32, has lost twice in 26 fights, has fought 11 consecutive world title fights and in five sold-out stadium nights, nearly 370,000 watched him live. He has been a central part of the British boxing business for a decade. But, he still wants more; beating Usyk is what he wants and needs. It would be one of boxing’s greatest tales of redemption.

Joshua is an underdog for the first time in his professional career and the private and open dialogue out here this week has not been kind on the big lad; most in the sprawling boxing republic expect him to get easily beat in about six or seven rounds. He has been dismissed like a relic, a has-been. The criticism has not been fair.

Perhaps even Usyk and his merry band of smilers, expect the same. There is no fear in the Ukraine contingent and Usyk has a sense of menace about everything he does. He was holding and stroking a stuffed Eeyore the other day, the toy a gift from his daughter, but it always looked like he was one gentle pet away from twisting its head right off.

Joshua knows exactly what to do and the debate is simple: Does he know how to do what he has to do? Can he back Usyk to the ropes, not be exposed as he does it and then can he trap and hurt him? It’s a simple plan, but there is nothing simple about Usyk. Not one single thing, trust me.

Usyk is unbeaten in 19 and this monumental fight is only his fourth adventure as a heavyweight. However, he always had the raw dimensions to move from cruiserweight and become a real heavyweight. He looks comfortable as a big man; Joshua failed to play the real big man in their first fight. Joshua has to find that big element this time.

“Joshua has to use his size, use his power, but he must be smart,” said Robert Garcia, the Californian trainer who replaced Robert McCracken in the corner. Joshua and McCracken had been together for over a decade, but the boxer was not happy with the corner in the first fight with Usyk. It was ugly and confusing on the night, a series of mixed messages from a group of men barely working as a unified team. McCracken was cut. It was brutal and thankfully there has mostly been a dignified silence. It happens, it’s boxing.

Joshua was outclassed by Usyk a year ago

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As I said, it has been a hard time for both since their twelve rounds last September. That will end for one of them late on Saturday night here. Joshua would return to Britain a genuine hero as a winner in a fight few think he has a chance of winning. Usyk, who is going back to Kyiv immediately after the fight, would be a Ukrainian legend for history. That is a lot of pressure on both.

And it will be pressure once the bell sounds; Usyk knows that Joshua, with the aggressive-minded Garcia in his corner, will start fast. Joshua will have to make sure he does not confuse any version of putting the pressure on Usyk, with charging in like a headless chicken. Usyk is smarter, Joshua hits much harder – that is at the core of this battle of wills, chins and desire. Joshua can win, but he will need to be smarter than we have ever seen before. It will, however, be memorable.

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