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Joshua adopts boxing’s sweet science in preparation for battle with Usyk

As the world’s predominant heavyweight in the estimation of three of the four main alpha-belt championship bodies Anthony Joshua could be excused at least a hint of irritation...

Anthony Joshua

As the world’s predominant heavyweight in the estimation of three of the four main alpha-belt championship bodies Anthony Joshua could be excused at least a hint of irritation as he keeps being compared unfavourably with his next challenger in terms of ring-craft. Far from it, reports

Instead of bridling at a perceived insult, Joshua has been using next Saturday night’s engagement with Oleksandr Usyk as the driving force for honing his own skills. Instead of assuming that he can rely on his massive physique and mighty punching to overwhelm the smaller Ukrainian technician in front of a sell-out crowd in the first fight at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Joshua has been applying boxing’s Sweet Science to his physical strength.

Doing so to such extremes as using only his left hand in sparring in hope of diluting the unorthodox southpaw threat, which made Usyk the undisputed world cruiserweight champion, at a time when that division was stacked with outstanding fighters.

“Deep practice,” says Joshua while attributing those technical improvements in part to COVID-19. “That’s what I learned during lockdown. Very deep practice. I’ve been training on the edge. Exposing myself to being hit by southpaw partners because of only using my left hand. That’s hard. That hurts. But the basic necessities of living in the pandemic were perfect for me. I like the basics of life. I don’t need a lot to make me happy.

“More importantly, this has helped me realise that putting yourself in vulnerable situations brings the best out of you. Not being allowed to impose my size and power in those sessions taught me not only the power of deep practice but also the power of the brain. Our brain is like plastic. It is always changing and you can use that to change and improve yourself”.

To find out more about who you are.’ There is a widespread assumption that Usyk, not a natural heavyweight, is not big enough to inconvenience Joshua unduly. That belief was reinforced as he seemed to struggle physically in his two wins since moving up to boxing’s most enriching marquee division, most noticeably against a still-robust Dereck Chisora.

Our WBA, IBF and WBO champion – not to mention the fringe IBO title – does not subscribe to that opinion. Rather, Joshua regards the still-undefeated Usyk as potentially his second biggest challenge after the legendary Wladimir Klitschko in that epic victory at Wembley, saying: ‘It’s not annoying to me that people look upon Usyk as the superior technical boxer. He is very good. And I know it’s not just about being big and just going into that ring and knocking him out inside 20 seconds with my first big punch.

“If that’s all it was then why would I have been so motivated to get out of bed at dawn to train? To put in the hard yards. To fatigue myself physically and mentally. To recover in the space of six or seven hours and then get up the next morning and do it all over again.

“I looked at all Usyk’s attributes and worked on what I will need to do against him: The placing of my feet, the positioning of the hands, the timing and setting up of punches against a counter-punching southpaw, the angles, the total concentration. Everything it takes to outclass a clever opponent in all those departments. They are the depths I’ve thrown myself into for this fight. And for all the fights to come.”

Hopefully, those in the future will include the long-awaited but interminably delayed blockbusters against Tyson Fury next year in Saudi Arabia and then Wembley for the undisputed world heavyweight championship. Always assuming all AJ’s hard work pays off against Uysk, that the WBC’s Gypsy King triumphs again over Deontay Wilder in their trilogy battle in Las Vegas on October 9.