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Anthony Joshua will be gunning for revenge when he takes on Oleksandr Usyk this weekend after being told he was "nothing special" in the aftermath of their first encounter.
Joshua suffered only the second defeat of his professional career when he lost to Usyk in front of a capacity crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September. The Ukrainian dethroned the home favourite to become the unified heavyweight champion of the world – taking the bout 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113 on the judges' scorecards.
Former WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO champion Joshua left the ring without giving an interview on that fateful night 11 months ago. But his opponent was more than chipper, claiming that the victory was "nothing special."
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He told Sky Sports: "This means a lot for me. The fight went exactly the way I expected it to go. There were a few moments where he pushed me hard, but it was nothing special.
"I had no objective to knock him out because my trainers pushed me not to do that. At the beginning I tried, but then my trainers said just stop and do your job.
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"The only thing I want to do with this fight is to praise to my lord Jesus Christ and to say it all comes from him. I have been working so hard since January in preparation for this fight, it took me half a year and I didn't see my family for so long."
Usyk concluded the interview by saying that he wasn't thinking about the rematch, which is now just hours away. The 35-year-old is the overwhelming favourite to defeat Joshua for a second time and retain his unbeaten record in a bout that some believe could be the British fighter's last if he doesn't win.
Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn has sought to dispel those rumours, although admitted that it "will be difficult to get a shot at the world heavyweight title" if Joshua is beaten again.
He added: "Why would you even consider retiring from the sport if you lose to the pound-for-pound number one? Unless you just didn't want to do it anymore."
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