Anthony Joshua planning for a battle of wits with Oleksandr Usyk
Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) is keenly aware of what lies ahead for him. On September 25, at the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium in London England, he puts the unified IBF/WBA ‘super’/WBO world heavyweight titles on the line against WBO mandatory contender Oleksandr Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs).
The challenger represents a different style of opponent than any he’s faced. Usyk is arguably the most difficult opponent of his career. Given that backdrop, “AJ” must have a different approach to deal with a fighter who offers a unique set of skills for a heavyweight. During an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, the 31-year-old from Watford, England discussed what measures he’s taking during preparation.
“Concentration – when you want to punch, you lock in, then make a move. You have to make sure your brain works. That can be mentally fatiguing so I am sharpening the mind so that I can concentrate for the 12 rounds.”
MIND OVER MATTER
Joshua believes that mental acuity will be just as important as any physical attribute. The champ is placing a high priority on staying focused through training camp and on fight night.
“It’s a fight for the brain. Knowing what you’ve got in front of you and knowing how to deal with it. You can either be aggressive, corner him, throw everything at it, or take your time, be clever, then knock him out.”
It’s a tricky balance for the unified heavyweight champ. Joshua is the naturally bigger and stronger man. However, the fight against Usyk is not based totally on size and strength. There’s a good chance this will be a distance fight. Joshua is making the proper adjustment, one of which is keeping his weight down. It’s not the easiest of tasks for the muscular Brit. To go the distance against an opponent with outstanding foot movement, he must be in optimum shape.
“I’ve learned how to condition my body for specific fights. I’m looking trim for this fight. I’m fighting a guy who is a 12-round fighter. So, it would be silly of me to go in there bulky with my muscles screaming for oxygen.
I’ve been training like a 15-round fighter in this camp. I will be well-conditioned to fight. That is key. What happens when I train that way? My body adapts and takes its natural form. This is the form it has taken.”
A DANGEROUS OPPONENT
Oleksandr Usyk is the former undisputed cruiserweight champion who made the jump to heavyweight in 2019. The 34-year-old from Shypyntsi, Ukraine has a well-earned reputation as one of the more skilled and technically sound fighters in the sport. Ranked number six in the 3KingsBoxing Top Ten fighter rankings, some pundits give Usyk a legit chance to score what would be considered an upset. He is full of confidence and has the skills to pull off the win.
This is a daunting task for Anthony Joshua. Is it a mistake for him to have a battle of wits against such an outstanding boxer in Usyk? That question will be answered on September 25 in London.
By: Michael Wilson Jr.