JEFF POWELL: If AJ uses bar brawls muscle memory, he'll KO Usyk

JEFF POWELL: If Anthony Joshua uses muscle memory of his teenage London bar brawls he’ll knock out canny southpaw Oleksandr Usyk… forget the scenic route and take the direct path

  • Anthony Joshua should make use of his intimidating, street-fighting attributes
  • AJ should go for the knockout – this is not the time to be dancing and jabbing 
  • Challenger Oleksandr Usyk is shorter and significantly lighter than Joshua  
  • The Ukrainian describes himself as ‘unpredictable’ and is a different opponent 

This is not Anthony Joshua’s first fight in Tottenham. There was a time when he and his pals bundled into fast cars for the madcap drive from Finchley.

Their destination: The Opera House. No, not the Royal home of opera and ballet but the dodgy old nightclub where he knew he would be called out by yobs wanting to take on the biggest guy in the building.

Which he was back then, and will be again tonight in the more auspicious environs of the spanking new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.


Anthony Joshua fights Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk on home turf in north London on Saturday

Joshua got into a few teenage scraps in Tottenham and will have 68,000 eyes on him this time

Oleksandr Usyk, the Ukrainian challenger for his world heavyweight titles, stands half a head shorter than Joshua. He is also significantly lighter despite bulking up his natural cruiserweight poundage, while Joshua has been shedding some weight in a quest for speed.

Despite the raucous attendance of some 68,000 fans, there will be no mass brawl tonight. Even so, Joshua might be best advised to bring some of his slugging, intimidating, street-fighting attributes to this particular argument.

There is a wry hint that this could be his intention when he says: ‘Most of our crowd are still together but I can’t be out there as much now and I miss it.’

Although the velvet drapes, glittering chandeliers and black ties of Covent Garden will seem a million rather just eight miles away, there is an artistic undercurrent to this battle for the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts. Usyk is not only a highly-technical practitioner of the noble art but a humourist who is into acting — he plans to play himself in a film about his life — writing poems and guitar-strumming.

He describes himself as ‘unpredictable’ and certainly is a very different kind of opponent. So far no other professional has found the key to unlocking his complex style or quirky personality.

Joshua has taken a liking to chess but this is not the moment for being drawn into mind games. Not the hour to be dancing and jabbing the way he did to avenge his solitary knockout defeat by Andy Ruiz Jnr.

Usyk (right) is half a head shorter than Joshua and significantly lighter than him as well 

Usyk describes himself as ‘unpredictable’ and no professional has unlocked his complex style

Usyk, for all his refined southpaw skills, is not possessed of heavyweight punching power. He reigned supreme down at cruiserweight, mostly by dint of 12-round decisions. Simply, AJ needs to go for the KO.

Joshua has been talking a lot about the endless ‘practice’ — rather than training — he is putting into ‘improving my boxing’.

For this one, forget the scenic route. Take the same direct path by which Tyson Fury made blunt use of his size and strength to bludgeon Deontay Wilder into a pulp, the most dangerous puncher on the planet.

More considered professional advice comes from Joshua’s head trainer Rob McCracken, who masterminded Team GB’s Olympic medals triumph and has returned from Tokyo to counsel.

‘The most important thing for Josh is to control the distance between himself and Usyk because he is a very clever southpaw counter-puncher,’ said McCraken. ‘If Josh keeps full concentration on distance, he will win.’

A mural to Joshua on Tottenham High Street, a stone’s throw from where he’ll fight Usyk

Usyk has overcome bigger men by boxing in the pocket, just inside their punching range

That does not mean just staying on the outside. Usyk has always overcome bigger men by boxing in the pocket, just inside their punching range. But that carries the risk that he is there to be hit and he did not look totally at ease when caught by Chazz Witherspoon and Dereck Chisora despite winning his first two bouts at heavyweight.

Usyk claims: ‘Anthony will not have been able to find sparring partners who can prepare him for boxing me.’ 

There is some anecdotal evidence to support that contention.’ Joshua admits: ‘I’ve not fought many southpaws but I’ve made the adjustment in camp by sparring a lot with only my left hand.’ 

Although this fight — ‘my toughest since Wladimir Klitschko’ — could never be won with one hand tied behind his back, it is that mighty right which must be made to count.

That thought takes AJ back to the Opera House. His eyes light up as he recalls the bad old teenage days of rocking and rolling with the boys in the hood.

‘I still get out with ’em from time to time. I don’t box to be a celebrity so I can still hang out on the street corner unnoticed,’ said Joshua.

Joshua fondly recalled youthful nights out but said ‘Now I’m enjoying the best days of my life’

‘I can’t go back to the Courvoisier, the cider and those £2 bottles you got in the shop and drank in the car. I was an amateur then and now I’m fighting to bring boxing the respect it deserves.

‘Those were fun times but they pass so quick.

‘Now I’m enjoying the best days of my life. Loving what I do. Loving getting better with every day of hard work. Loving it so much that after I beat him and spend Sunday with my son (Joseph ‘JJ’, aged six), I will be back in the gym on Monday.’

Usyk has studied him. He says: ‘I’ve watched Anthony’s development a lot. He is not the same fighter who beat Klitschko. But every boxer has his vulnerabilities. His size doesn’t worry me.

‘I believe I can win the way (Evander) Holyfield came up from cruiser to be heavyweight champion.’

 

Styles make fights and this one is made even more intriguing by the inclusion of the complete southpaw.

But while Joshua’s improvements can only help, this calls for a return to basics.

‘We never lost any of those fights at the Opera House,’ added Joshua. ‘Those guys could never fight trained boxers. The bouncers knew that so they always took our side as well.’

Remember that, remember playing the bully, and come tomorrow morning JJ’s dad AJ will still be undefeated in London N17.

Joshua v Usyk will be televised live on Sky Sports Box Office this Saturday night. 




Share this article

Source: Read Full Article