Anthony Joshua acknowledged “change needs to happen” ahead of his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk for the unified heavyweight championship on Aug. 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The two-time champ was routed by Usyk via unanimous decision when they met in September in London. In the wake of the lopsided defeat, Joshua parted ways with his longtime trainer, Robert McCracken, in favor of a union with Robert Garcia.
Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) is no stranger to title rematches, of course. He was stopped in Round 7 by Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019 in ESPN’s Upset of the Year. The British star regained his three titles via unanimous decision in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, six months later.
“I feel when I go and beat Usyk, I’ll get the credit I deserve again,” Joshua, 32, told ESPN. “And I’ll get the admiration for being a true boxing legend. … I fought for the heavyweight championship in my 16th fight; I felt like it’s kind of overlooked.”
“This is my 12th title fight in a row,” he added. ” … I just feel like sometimes even though we’re selling out arenas and it’s good to be popular, I don’t really care for that stuff. I’d just want the respect in the division.”
Certainly, a victory over Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) would deliver that. A former undisputed cruiserweight champion, Usyk is ESPN’s No. 2 heavyweight and No. 6 pound-for-pound boxer. Unlike Ruiz, who ballooned to 283.5 pounds for the rematch, Usyk appeared chiseled at Tuesday’s kickoff news conference in Jeddah.
The 35-year-old Ukrainian is a masterful boxer who is adept at controlling distance with his excellent footwork and jab. And Joshua knows exactly what he’s up against.
“It makes me feel more comfortable knowing that I’ve been in a ring with a fighter before, but ultimately he might come completely different,” said Joshua, who like Usyk, captured a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. ” … I definitely feel my training approach changes because I knew where I wasn’t good enough, you know, areas where I was exposed.
“And look, I’ve got a … third chance to become heavyweight champion of the world. … I’m not just gonna go in there thinking it’s gonna be easy. I will address the weaknesses and then I’ll make sure I get it right and become champion again. I think it’s a task that’s definitely possible.”
Joshua, ESPN’s No. 4 heavyweight, owns victories over Joseph Parker, Alexander Povetkin, and most notably, Hall of Fame boxer Wladimir Klitschko. A victory over Usyk, though, would easily register as his greatest accomplishment yet.
“Now, it’s all about, ‘oh, he’s not good enough anyway,’ so that’s the motivation to prove I’m good enough,” Joshua said. “‘Cause when you are doing it and you’re on top, it’s hard to get the credit.”