Joshua and Usyk stage extremely respectful final presser
Technically speaking, the heavyweight division is only two fights away from having an undisputed champion. Holding the most straps is WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion Anthony “AJ” Joshua (24-1, 22 KO’s), who will face Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KO’s) on September 25. Yet the last renegade belt separated from the collective belongs to WBC heavyweight champion Tyson “The Gypsy King” Fury. Fury will go to war for the third time with Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder on October 9. Hopefully the two winners of these bouts will fight and crown the undisputed heavyweight champion in the first quarter of 2022.
Ironically enough, this quartet of fighters could not be any more different. Without question, Wilder and Fury represent the wild and hype side of boxing promotion. First there is the Bomber who loves to gleefully talk about maiming and potentially killing opponents. Across the table from him, Fury delights in talking fast like a used car salesman while berating his opposition in long barrages of insults typically punctuated with “shithouse” or “doser.”
Usyk and Joshua, on the other hand, are generally poster boy’s for model behavior at press events. And in their final presser, they did not deviate from that same trusty script. Depending on the movies you watch, Usyk was dressed in homage to Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker or a Russian gangster. You make the call. The champion Joshua was donned in a typical sweat suit with his ever-present large wireless headphones draped around his neck. There was not one ill-word or sharp glance exchanged between the camps.
MAY THE BEST MAN WIN
Being limited in his command of the English language, Oleksandr Usyk opted to keep his speaking portion short. He took the time to thank Team Joshua for their professionalism and express his resolve in this big moment. Yet, the Ukrainian bruiser was more concerned with his pursuit of forging history on this grand stage.
“You know every fight makes history and I think that me and Anthony are going to make another step in history. Something that people later will be talking about, people will remember, people will be watching it on TV and it will make history.”
Joshua was not so succinct! Like Usyk, AJ lavished his own and his foe’s team in praise and respect. Yet the champion took his time on the mic to largely talk expound upon his belief in hard work, treating boxing with respect and continuing to grow the sport. Before relinquishing his speaking time, AJ was sure to let it be known that it was not all smiles and mirth; he was there for a fight.
“[On camp] It’s been demanding and challenging but we make it fun. Because it’s practice, when you can see improvements like a dog or a baby, when there are improvements and you praise them, they want to do more. So I’ve wanted to give more and more each day…they love boxing, I love boxing, I love everything that they do [team Usyk], I love everything my opponents do because it gets them to the stage where we fight each other and the cream always rises to the top and we’re here now and good luck to them!”
“…I’m not an easy fight for anyone, I like fighting. God has blessed me, he has showed me the path to get into boxing…I’ve signed a career long-contract with Eddie [Hearn], so I don’t know how long he’s going to be getting me on this table talking to you guys! Maybe 20 years from now I’ll retire.”
AND STILL OR AND THE NEW??
While they might be polite now, that charm is sure to peel away like a dead grey snakeskin come fight night. Joshua has only been back in ownership of his collection of belts for the past two fights. In June of 2019, AJ suffered his first and only professional loss to Andy Ruiz. Six months later, in an immediate rematch, AJ got his revenge and reclaimed his straps by way of unanimous decision.
He would go on to fairly easily defend his titles against WBO mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in his only competition in 2020. Despite correcting his only professional blemish and coming off a knockout win, the musky sour taste of defeat has to still linger fresh in his memory. Joshua will certainly be looking to avoid the vile flavor at all costs.
For his part, Oleksandr Usyk is used to playing the role of assassin in a foreign land. On his conquest to become the undisputed cruiserweight champion, he dethroned all the current champions in their own backyards. Therefore, this latest UK invasion is simply another day in the office. In the end though, only time will tell who walks away with the glory and who leaves with shattered dreams.
By: Bakari Simpson