‘Desperate’ Anthony Joshua aware of stakes as he prepares for rematch with ‘nightmare’ Oleksandr Usyk

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Anthony Joshua has admitted that he is ‘definitely desperate’ to regain his heavyweight titles when he faces Oleksandr Usyk in a rematch this August.

Joshua lost the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts for the second time in his career when he was outpointed by Usyk in London last September. Now the Briton is out to do what he did following the only other defeat of his professional career: avenge the loss and become champion again.

Joshua, 33, responded to his stoppage defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019 with a points victory at the end of that year. That win made him a two-time heavyweight champion, and to become a three-time title holder he must overcome the unbeaten Usyk in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 20 August.

“Listen, it’s a rough and tough sport, especially fighting these lefties; they’re a nightmare,” Joshua said at a press conference in London on Wednesday.

“But it is what it is, isn’t it? You’ve gotta dig deep, tuck up, and not make the same mistake twice.”

When asked whether he knows what he must to do beat Usyk, Joshua said: “Um... I could say that, but I didn’t come out victorious last time. But 12 rounds in the bank is good, good footage to watch, but every fight is different.

“No matter how many videos you’ve watched, how many staredowns you’ve had, no matter how many press conferences you’ve done, it’s just completely different in the ring. Twelve rounds is good, but you can’t take too much away from it. You’ve got to be in the moment; what happened then is in the past, I don’t really live in the past.

Oleksandr Usyk (left) and Anthony Joshua (second-right) at a London press conference (Action Images via Reuters)
Oleksandr Usyk (left) and Anthony Joshua (second-right) at a London press conference (Action Images via Reuters)

“I’ll be looking forward to competing round by round. If I follow my As, Bs and Cs, it should lead me to KO.”

In his bid to hand Usyk the first loss of the Ukrainian’s professional career, Joshua has added Robert Garcia to his coaching set-up, while the Briton’s long-time trainer Rob McCracken has stepped away from the team – for the time being, at least.

“Robert Garcia’s a good man,” Joshua said. “Straight after the [first fight with Usyk], I spent time in America. It’s something I should have done early in my career. So, young fighters coming up: Go to the States, get out there, travel.

“Branching out has been good with Robert Garcia. Shoutout to Rob McCracken and all the team up there as well, I respect him and everything that we’ve achieved, so there’s no love lost.

“But I need to make some sort of important decisions for myself as well. Yeah, it’s new, it’s something different, but the objective is the same: to win a fight, to look at your opponent and take something away from them, a bit of their spirit when you’re in the ring.”

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn asked whether the Olympic gold medalist – an accolade also held by Usyk, 35 – is ‘desperate’ for victory in this ‘must-win’ fight, and “AJ” answered affirmatively.

“I’m definitely desperate to get my hands on [the titles],” Joshua said. “Less talk, more action. Let me get in there and do my job.

“I’m not a comedian, I’m not someone who writes speeches... I’m definitely hungry, definitely desperate, but at the end of the day, how I perform will speak volumes to the masses.”

Usyk, meanwhile, was forthright about his mindset as he looks to provide his fellow Ukrainians, who are under invasion from Russia, with something to celebrate come 20 August.

“I’m not fighting for money or recognition – I don’t need this,” said the former undisputed cruiserweight champion – the only man to have held that status in the four-belt era.

“I don’t need to become the greatest, I’m just doing my job now and will continue doing it as long as my heart is beating.

“The only thing I’m on my way to is to save my soul. Everything else is just life.

“I do understand that he’s gonna be different, so will I.”

Usyk’s rematch with Joshua was expected to take place earlier this year, but the Ukrainian returned to his home country in February to aid its defence against the ongoing invasion by Russia.