Ahead of Usyk, Joshua recalls 'phenomenal' night in Saudi Arabia against Ruiz

Briton reclaimed heavyweight titles in the Kingdom in 2019 and hopes to do the same against Ukrainian champion in Jeddah on Saturday

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Anthony Joshua says he has "great memories" of his first fight in Saudi Arabia three years ago and that he hopes to put on a similar show when he attempts to wrest back the heavyweight titles from Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah on Saturday.

Joshua dominated from the opening bell to beat Andy Ruiz by unanimous decision in their rematch that took place in the Kingdom in December 2019, six months after the Briton suffered the first defeat of his pro career to the Mexican-American.

That fight took place in Diriyah while Saturday's second encounter against Usyk - dubbed 'The Rage on the Red Sea" - will be held in Jeddah, and Joshua says he hopes for a similar outcome against the Ukrainian.

“I have great memories from 2019," he recalled. "Everything about the event was spot on. From the purpose-built stadium, the organisation and the hospitality it was all 10 out of 10.

“It was a phenomenal event for boxing in general and, of course, very special for me as I became two-time champion.”

The legacy of that fight, billed as the "Clash on the Dunes" has seen boxing in Saudi Arabia grow at a rapid rate. Authorities report a 300 per cent increase in participation - men and women - while the number of boxing gyms in the country has climbed from seven to 59. Last December, the Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation introduce the first women's boxing championship.

“It’s fantastic that the country has taken the sport to heart,” Joshua said. “As professional fighters competing on a global scale it is fantastic to see the sport grow and inspire a new generation to it.”

Against Usyk, Joshua, 32, will need all the energy he can muster from the Jeddah crowd as he runs it back against a man widely regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.

Usyk extended his career unbeaten run to 19 fights by securing a unanimous points victory over Joshua to claim the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight belts, all of which are on the line at King Abdullah Sports City.

But, while Joshua insists Usyk deserves the respect his achievements command, he is ready for redemption.

“Things happen in life, but resilience and mental toughness and consistency will always prevail, so we are still on the right road,” he said.

“I am focused on the target and goal and it’s all about performance now. I had to take the defeat like a man and hold myself accountable. I simply have to reverse it and move forward.

“We have to give him credit, I respect him for his craft. I am motivated to get better. The great thing is I have a second chance to beat him. You can put me down, but you can’t keep me down.

“My team and I are focused on the goal, taking all the learnings from the last fight and on August 20th I will entertain the fans who come out to see a huge night of heavy weight boxing.”

The undercard features Saudi fighter Ziyad Al Maayouf, while Ramla Ali and Crystal Garcia Nova will be the first female boxers to feature in an official international fight in the Kingdom.

Callum Smith meet Mathieu Bauderlique and Filip Hrgovic takes on the undefeated Zhilei Zhang in light-heavyweight and heavyweight final eliminators, respectively.

“All focus is on fight night, and we are certain to put on a serious show for them," added Joshua.

“I can’t wait to see everyone at the arena. It is set to be an unbelievable night of Championship level boxing. For any sports fan this is not to be missed, it has all the ingredients to go down in boxing history.”

Updated: August 15, 2022, 6:32 AM