Anthony Joshua desperate to right his mistakes against Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah

First bout was a new experience for the powerful Englishman and now he has a new plan to regain his heavyweight titles

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Anthony Joshua has been told non-stop for the last 11 months what he did wrong against Oleksandr Usyk last time; he didn’t throw enough punches.

The plan to regain his WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles in Jeddah on Saturday will be a bit more detailed than that, but if he is not busier, he has little chance.

Joshua had not really boxed anyone like Usyk before. Ahead of their first meeting in London, it was easy to get drawn into the narrative that Joshua’s power and size would be too much for Usyk, who had only had two fights at heavyweight after stepping up in weight from cruiserweight.

But the Englishman could not cope with Usyk’s movement or the angles he presented. Too often his jab was pushed out slowly and left hanging in the air without the usual powerful right that followed it. The body punches were missing, as was the left hook, which is a potent weapon.

The previous time he lost his world titles, to Andy Ruiz Jr, he was able to get revenge (also in Saudi Arabia) six months later. This time the wait as a former champion has been longer and he has found that grating.

“It was challenging,” Joshua said. “I’m looking forward to now putting some power behind them shots as well and definitely think I can hurt him. I believe 100 per cent; I can knock him out.”

Being the underdog could suit Joshua well. Not only are expectations more limited, but he is not forced to sell the show on his own, “be the performing seal”, as promoter Eddie Hearn has put it.

“He’s putting a lot more pressure on himself,” Hearn said. “Sometimes the talk is ‘I trained hard’, now it is ‘I have to win this fight’.

Usyk beats Joshua in first encounter

“I like that because the performance he needs requires a little bit of desperation at times and a lot of ferocity. He is nervous, but he is not nervous because of the fight or Usyk, he is nervous about not winning and how that will make him feel. He has got to be desperate to win.”

The feeling is that Usyk has piled on the pounds since the first meeting, although the truth of that will be discovered at Friday’s weigh-in. Joshua has suggested he will be slightly heavier too.

“I can’t tell you if or why he has put on weight,” Joshua said. “If I had done that, it would have been for a few reasons. One would be because I felt I wasn’t big enough. Second reason would be if I felt it would help me punch harder. He might feel he is able to manoeuvre guys around a bit better.

“Sometimes you don’t intentionally put on weight, you are boxing, not weightlifting, it happens naturally.”

Joshua’s long-time coach, Robert McCracken, was replaced by Californian Robert Garcia for this fight to inject some urgency, although quite how big a role he has is tough to gauge, as Joshua had already started his training camp under Angel Fernandez, who has remained as co-trainer, before he arrived.

“We don’t really talk about having a head coach because there is no ego in our team,” Joshua said. “We are just here to do a job.”

Joshua has labelled this a must-win fight and while he has distanced himself from any talk of retiring, it will be a serious rebuilding project if he loses for the second time in a row.

“It's up to me at the end of the day, it's not up to anyone else what I do with my career,” Joshua said. “If the game doesn't want me anymore, I don't have to do this. Why do I do it? It's because it's all I know.

“This is my 12th consecutive world title fight. I’ve been in world title fights back-to-back 12 times. It happens – if you’re fighting people at world level, you’re meeting people of world level quality. I took a loss and I’ve come back. We’re here to entertain.”

Updated: August 19, 2022, 2:51 AM
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