Anthony Joshua To Fight Oleksandr Usyk, Hoping To Retain Heavyweight Titles
Two days earlier than he was scheduled to attempt to defend his heavyweight titles in opposition to the undefeated Oleksandr Usyk, Anthony Joshua sat at a information convention on Thursday in London, his hat, headphones and even water bottles positioned to make sponsor logos seen to the cameras.
A protracted record of corporations has invested in Joshua, the 31-year-old British boxing star: Beneath Armour, his attire supplier; Beats by Dre, the headphones maker; Matchroom Boxing, the promoter with which Joshua signed a lifetime contract this week. And Joshua, who’s 24-1 with 22 knockouts, spoke as if Saturday’s bout in opposition to Usyk, an undefeated 34-year-old from Ukraine, was not only a contest but additionally an financial stimulus bundle. He instructed reporters he felt accountable for offering a platform and a payday for fighters on the undercard of an occasion anticipated to draw almost 70,000 spectators to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
“I’m going to work arduous, attempt to deliver consideration to boxing so it advantages everybody, not simply me,” Joshua stated. “I don’t promote boxing as a result of I wish to be well-known. I put it up for sale as a result of I would like everybody to profit from it.”
The cardboard on Saturday comes on the finish of two tumultuous weeks within the boxing trade. On Sept. 11, the retired combined martial arts fighter Vitor Belfort overwhelmed the 58-year-old former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield in a pay-per-view bout that, relying on one’s perspective, showcased either the peak or the rock-bottom of the latest pattern of novelty fights.
However over this previous week, critical, aggressive, significant fights have competed for headlines. On Wednesday afternoon, Deontay Wilder held a media conference call to hype his rematch in opposition to Tyson Fury for the W.B.C. heavyweight title, scheduled for Oct. 9 in Las Vegas. Yesterday, Saúl Álvarez and Caleb Plant traded insults and blows at a news conference forward of their Nov. 6 super-middleweight title bout.
That brawl wasn’t staged for publicity’s sake — Plant emerged with a distinguished lower on his proper cheek — but it surely did generate consideration that might result in pay-per-view gross sales. By Thursday afternoon, a video of the skirmish posted on Showtime Boxing’s Twitter web page had been considered 4.7 million instances.
However Joshua’s predominant occasion offered with out pre-fight trash speak or a information convention rumble.
Eddie Hearn, the chairman of Matchroom Boxing, stated the Joshua-Usyk combat would fill Tottenham Hotspur Stadium partly due to pent-up demand. The title combat tops the largest combat card in England for the reason that coronavirus pandemic started, and the boxing occasion is the primary for Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, a $1.33 billion venue that opened in 2019.
However, Hearn stated, the group projection was additionally a perform of Joshua’s recognition. Profitable gold on the London Olympics in 2012 ensured Joshua would flip professional with a built-in audience in Britain. In April 2017, a reported 90,000 spectators watched him defeat Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium in London for the W.B.A., W.B.O. and I.B.F. titles.
“He’s the largest star in British boxing by far, and arguably the largest star in world boxing,” Hearn stated.
Joshua’s subsequent check is Usyk, an opponent ordered by the World Boxing Group, and bouts between marquee champions and obligatory challengers usually immediate stakeholders to suppose long run. A win on Saturday ought to place Joshua to combat the winner of subsequent month’s combat between Fury and Wilder.
However Usyk’s résumé suggests he isn’t an afterthought. Like Joshua, he gained Olympic gold in 2012. He turned skilled as a cruiserweight and gained each main sanctioning physique’s title in that division. In his final cruiserweight bout, he crushed the English star Tony Bellew, and he has gained each his bouts since transferring to heavyweight in 2019.
“Each combat makes historical past,” Usyk stated via a translator on the information convention on Thursday. “Me and Anthony are going to make one other step in historical past. One thing folks will discuss. One thing folks will bear in mind.”
The match turned attainable after some only-in-boxing courtroom sparring amongst Wilder, Fury and Joshua.
In Could, Hearn stated that Fury and Joshua had signed for a mid-August title unification bout. It was deliberate to be staged in Saudi Arabia and every fighter may have doubtlessly earned 9 figures. However Wilder sued to cease the combat, arguing that after dropping to Fury in February 2020 he had exercised the rematch clause in his contract and gained the authorized proper to combat Fury subsequent. A choose agreed and ordered a Wilder-Fury combat, forcing Joshua to regroup and face Usyk.
The ensuing combat pits Johsua, a robust puncher whose typically porous protection makes him susceptible, in opposition to Usyk, a calculating southpaw who counterpunches with authority.
“If types make fights, we’re in for a really, very particular evening,” Ed Breeze, the chief vice chairman of DAZN, which can stream the combat card, stated on the information convention.
Related circumstances preceded Joshua’s first skilled defeat in June 2019. A scheduled title protection in opposition to Jarrell Miller fell via when Miller failed a doping check, and Joshua selected to proceed with a brand new opponent on the identical date for his U.S. debut at Madison Sq. Backyard. Andy Ruiz stepped in for Miller and scored a seventh-round win by technical knockout.
Joshua regained his titles in a rematch six months later, however stated the Ruiz loss had taught him the worth of a reset and a full coaching camp.
So after an surprising change this time, as a substitute of slotting Usyk into the August date, Joshua moved the combat to September to present it and his undefeated challenger the eye they deserve.
“It’s not difficult. For those who inform me I’m preventing King Kong, I’ll give it a go,” Joshua stated on Thursday. “It’s a chance for me to work. He’s going to work, I’m going to work.”