Anthony Joshua heads into another Saudi Arabia rematch knowing he could once again reign as heavyweight champion.
But this time, the Briton knows his career is on the line after another damaging defeat.
In 2019, Andy Ruiz Jr. gave AJ an easy opportunity to take back his titles by not preparing correctly. Oleksandr Usyk won’t afford him that chance.
Predictions a knockout is coming are dogging Joshua throughout the fight week. If that happens, it’s hard to see where he could go next.
The man himself seems agitated and uncomfortable to watch at times as he tries to explain how he gets his status back.
Usyk won’t be as forgiving as Ruiz, that’s for sure.
“It’s a ‘must-win’ fight. Preparations have been tough, but I like the pressure. Robert Garcia, Angel Fernandez, and members of my previous team as well.
“They’ve been pushing me, challenging me, ensuring I stay focused. They are positioning me to get the job done and emerge victorious come Saturday night.”
He added: “This is what competition is all about; setting goals I want to achieve. It’s about being disciplined enough to follow them through.
“That’s competition with myself.
Regaining the belts
“As you mentioned with the belts, they mean something, but that’s all at the end of the target. It’s not like I’m skipping the process. I’m focused on the process.
“I’m looking forward to it. I want to compete. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t really say much else, but you’ve got to have a competitive spirit.
“I’m prepared to do whatever it takes, and I’m looking forward to competing this weekend.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn obviously sees his man becoming a three-time champion in a blaze of glory. And even if the worst happens, the Matchroom boss doesn’t seem ready for the possibility that his main source of UK income will no longer be there for him.
“This is the unified world heavyweight title between two greats of boxing. It doesn’t get any bigger than that,” insisted Hearn.
“Oleksandr Usyk; an Olympic gold medallist, the pound-for-pound number one. A former undisputed cruiserweight and current unified heavyweight champion.
“Anthony Joshua; also an Olympic gold medallist. He became heavyweight champion in his 16th fight and unified the division in front of 90,000 people in his 19th fight.
“He has changed the face of the sport around the world.
“Two tremendous fighters, two tremendous athletes, champions, and ambassadors of the sport that people in Saudi Arabia and worldwide can be inspired by.
“It’s been an incredible week, and the best is still to come.”
Joshua has to be competitive in this fight. That’s number one. If he looks out of sorts at all, he’s in trouble when selling future comeback fights.
Rival Deontay Wilder is back in action on October 15. “The Bronze Bomber” is one solid option for Joshua moving forward. However, Al Haymon is looking into persuading the WBC that Wilder and ex-foe Ruiz should fight for the vacant WBC title as soon as Tyson Fury vacates.
Both need to win their respective Pay Per Views for that scenario to open up.
Therefore, who would Joshua face moving forward? – It would be a rebuilding job on home soil, possibly against Dillian Whyte – that’s if he fights again at all.
This headliner means far more to Joshua than it does to Usyk. Will that bring even more pressure?
We are waiting to find out.
The views expressed in this article are the opinions of Phil Jay.