Size is not everything – Joshua on Usyk challenge

Anthony Joshua says size is not everything as he prepares for Saturday’s fascinating showdown vs Oleksandr Usyk in London.

AJ (24-1) defends his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles against the unbeaten former cruiserweight king (18-0) in front of 65,000 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK and DAZN in the United States).

While Usyk has won his two outings at heavyweight so far, he was given a stern examination by Dereck Chisora last October and some experts question whether he is big enough to hang with an elite big man like Joshua.

Joshua’s respect for Usyk

The champion himself so says that is a dangerous view to have, and relying just on weight and power would be a foolish gameplan. He has huge respect for the Ukrainian, as he outlined in a sit-down interview with DAZN.

“Good boxer, understands positioning in feet and hands and has the credentials to prove it. That we can’t deny – he’s talented,” said AJ.

“Done well at WSB, which was over a five-round period, but it’s heavyweight boxing so it’s experience. People believe that being big and strong what wins fights, you have to have the mental capacity.

“You just can’t depend on being big and strong, or there wouldn’t be three-weight-division world champions who have come up through different weights – conquered one weight, moved up another weight, moved up another weight, moved up another weight.

“How many weight divisions was (Manny) Pacquiao? Eight-division world champion, so size doesn’t always play into it and if I’m just depending on being big and strong then I’m putting myself in a disadvantage.

“So I’ve applied myself properly for the fight to make sure I have more artillery in my weapon bag on the fight night to make sure I get the win.”

A better AJ now

Much water has passed under the bridge since Joshua last appeared in front of a full UK arena – that was against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley in September 2018. Since that night he has lost his titles and regained them, both vs Andy Ruiz Jr. He believes the Joshua that the fans see on Saturday will be vastly improved.

“It’s really good, I’m happy because I get to showcase how much better I am than when I was boxing Povetkin. I don’t think I was that good back then. I always believe with the guys, when we’re talking about undisputed, I always knew that they should get me then, rather than now.”

That defeat by Ruiz Jr in New York in June 2019 caused seismic tremors throughout boxing, and it led Joshua to make changes. Changes which so far have paid off handsomely.

“I worked hard, knuckled down, changed a lot of my training, my approach, my mind. So this will be a really good fight to display a lot of my attributes and everything that I’ve learned over the years and experience I’ve gathered and go out and dominate at the heavyweight division.

“It took a lot of time to build to where we are now after a period of time, after the building it’s just about applying it. Over the pandemic, no commercials, no sponsorship requirements, no broadcaster requirements, just being able to be myself.”