Anthony Joshua sees Oleksandr Usyk as a full-fledged heavyweight

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The one obvious advantage that Anthony Joshua would seem to have over Oleksandr Usyk going into their title fight Saturday in London is natural size.

Joshua, who holds three of the four major titles, is 6-foot-6 and fights at 240-plus rounds. Usyk, a mandatory challenger, is a cruiserweight champion-turned-heavyweight who is 6-3 and weighed 217.25 in his last fight.

However, Joshua doesn’t dismiss Usyk as a blown-up 200-pounder. The Ukrainian’s handlers have declared that Usyk has grown into the division and the champion is inclined to believe them.

“A full-fledged heavyweight doesn’t mean weighing like 200 kilograms or 300 pounds,” Joshua said on a zoom call Wednesday, three days before he meets Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on DAZN. “It’s just like if you can physical handle them in sparring. One [sparring partner] goes four rounds then another gets in and another one gets in.

“Can you still push and shove heavyweights for 12 rounds when they’re fresh? They must see he’s well-conditioned, that he can handle the pressure from heavyweights. They must know exactly how he’s getting on in training, so I can’t go against what they see.”

Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) has had only two fights at heavyweight, a seventh-round knockout of journeyman Chazz Witherspoon in October 2019 and a unanimous decision over longtime contender Derek Chisora a year later.

Usyk didn’t dazzle anyone in the Chisora fight but, Joshua said, he got the job done.

“He stopped Chazz, which was a good showing, stopping a full-fledged heavyweight, a big guy,” Joshua said. “And his fight with Chisora was a tough one. Chisora gives a lot of guys problems. He overcame 12 rounds and got the decision.

“In boxing, you have to put that behind you, and they fight us Saturday. That’s what he was interested in, right? Well done to him. You gotta get past certain fights no matter how you look so you can move on in boxing.”

Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) was asked whether only two fights in the new division was enough to prepare Usyk for the challenge he’ll face on Saturday.

He responded by saying that, ideally, Usyk would have had more time to adjust to the biggest men in the sport. At the same time, he understands why the challenger and his advisors want this fight at the current time.

“They talk about [former cruiserweight Evander] Holyfield a lot,” Joshua said. “I think he had six warmup fights before he fought Buster Douglas for the title, which is important. You can’t rush in the heavyweight division.

“But, then again, you know, Holyfield was 25 when he came up to the heavyweight division so he had a bit more time to develop. Usyk’s like 34, so he hasn’t got enough time to have six warmup fights and get ready. They want it now.”

In the end, Joshua respects Usyk for the courage the naturally smaller man has to step into the ring with him.

“Let’s give Oleksander Usyk credit as well because I wouldn’t want to be in the ring with me,” he said. “If I were Oleksandr Usyk, [if] I would be looking across the ring, I swear to God I wouldn’t want to be in the ring with someone like me. I’m very competitive.

“Good luck to him on Saturday.”

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Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk set for Sept. 25 in London