There was a naughty moment this week when Oleksandr Usik’s team found Anthony Joshua’s car and with a smile they engraved the Challenger’s name on the door in the dust. An unpleasant surprise for the champion to return.
It was a reminder that there is a healthy level of disrespect beyond the prestige and mutual praise of this great World Heavyweight Championship fight.
The hardest fight of Joshua’s career tonight is against Usik Sky Sports box office.
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Joshua has fought compulsive battles before, but none of them do – Vladimir Klitschko fights can always define him, and Andy Ruiz Jr. actually reconciles divided predictions, but Usik represents a unique and complex challenge.
Undefeated and undisputed as Cruiserweight, there is a scattering of stardust over the mysterious Usik. He has a right foot (Joshua has only boxed one and a half rounds against left-handers in his pro career) and he is fighting to become the third third boxer to become world champion in cruiser and heavyweight.
With a terrible smile the Ukrainian came with a shaved head and a handlebar mustache – to his warrior descendants, to the people of the 17th century Cossacks, who fought on horseback with swords. Changes in his appearance are signs of intent.
He wears colorful socks with aliens on them, then wears Batman’s rival The Joker, but Ushik’s identity is no laughing matter for Joshua.
The IBF, WBA and WBO champions have called it a “fight for the brain” but obviously have an interesting physical element – after weeks of rumors suggesting Joshua Usaike come to terms with the impressive, he weighed in as his usual rock-solid self.
His pre-war workout routine was a mathematical attempt to prevent juggling and entertaining Usik from stealing limelight. Earlier when he fought with Kubrat Puliv, Joshua had his hands wrapped in a public workout before being told to just leave the camera, but this time, he also acted.
It’s definitely a fight that could be settled in the nerve-wracking final few rounds, even Joshua and Usik can have a terrific wait for the scorecard after their best punches.
“I think at first it would be chess,” Usik said.
Joshua must not be tempted in Usik’s kingdom and warns: “I can out-box him, of course I can. And I can make him strong.
“Obviously we have our strength. I’ll use my strength.”
Usik’s strength is his mobility and his IQ, which means he hasn’t been lost since he became an amateur a decade ago.
He has a great habit of ignoring people of local choice – in Russia, Latvia, the United States, Poland and the United Kingdom he has won at least seven fights in the backyard. He learns that Council Estate Joshua has grown up just a few miles away and will get a taste of ruining the party.
Usaik was an elite warrior for a long time but he is now at his peak and this is what makes him the toughest opponent of Joshua’s career.
But he will meet Joshua 3.0 inside the ring tonight-not a talented and physically up-blacker, not a surviving fighter on a rollercoaster ride, but his physically and mentally stylish reigning champion.
“I’m not an easy fight for anyone,” Joshua says and he’s absolutely right.
While Usik may be a unique test for Joshua, Joshua is certainly the most dangerous test of Usik’s skill.
Tonight’s fight represents the end of a 10-year mission for Yusik, who first saw 21-year-old Joshua lose an amateur fight but still predicted he would become an Olympic champion. A year later, they both won gold in London in 2012, and Usaik has been keeping an eye on Joshua ever since.
The secrets that Clitsko whispered were also a mystery – Joshua’s team said he “condemned any involvement” but Usik said “I keep talking to him.”
One of the biggest compliments to this impressive fight is that Tyson Fury’s mentions have been kept to a minimum. The undisputed title fight of the dream will never become a reality unless Joshua can send Yusik to the hardest job of his career tonight.
Watch Joshua vs. Yusik on Saturday, live at Sky Sports Box Office from 7pm. Book it via your Sky Remote or book online here. Non-Sky TV subscribers can book and watch here.