Two days earlier than he was scheduled to attempt to defend his heavyweight titles in opposition to the undefeated Oleksandr Usyk, Anthony Joshua sat at a information convention on Thursday in London, his hat, headphones and even water bottles positioned to make sponsor logos seen to the cameras.
An extended listing of firms has invested in Joshua, the 31-year-old British boxing star: Under Armour, his attire supplier; Beats by Dre, the headphones maker; Matchroom Boxing, the promoter with which Joshua signed a lifetime contract this week. And Joshua, who's 24-1 with 22 knockouts, spoke as if Saturday’s bout in opposition to Usyk, an undefeated 34-year-old from Ukraine, was not only a contest but in addition an financial stimulus package deal. He instructed reporters he felt liable for offering a platform and a payday for fighters on the undercard of an occasion anticipated to draw practically 70,000 spectators to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
“I’m going to work hard, try and bring attention to boxing so it benefits everyone, not just me,” Joshua mentioned. “I don’t promote boxing because I want to be famous. I promote it because I want everyone to benefit from it.”
The card on Saturday comes on the finish of two tumultuous weeks within the boxing trade. On Sept. 11, the retired blended martial arts fighter Vitor Belfort overwhelmed the 58-year-old former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield in a pay-per-view bout that, relying on one’s perspective, showcased both the height or the rock-bottom of the current development of novelty fights.
But over this previous week, severe, aggressive, significant fights have competed for headlines. On Wednesday afternoon, Deontay Wilder held a media convention name to hype his rematch in opposition to Tyson Fury for the W.B.C. heavyweight title, scheduled for Oct. 9 in Las Vegas. The earlier day, Saúl Álvarez and Caleb Plant traded insults and blows at a news conference forward of their Nov. 6 super-middleweight title bout.
That brawl wasn’t staged for publicity’s sake — Plant emerged with a outstanding lower on his proper cheek — but it surely did generate consideration that would result in pay-per-view gross sales. By Thursday afternoon, a video of the skirmish posted on Showtime Boxing’s Twitter web page had been seen 4.7 million instances.
But Joshua’s important occasion bought with out pre-fight trash speak or a information convention rumble.
Eddie Hearn, the chairman of Matchroom Boxing, mentioned the Joshua-Usyk battle would fill Tottenham Hotspur Stadium partly due to pent-up demand. The title battle tops the most important battle card in England for the reason that coronavirus pandemic started, and the boxing occasion is the primary for Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, a $1.33 billion venue that opened in 2019.
But, Hearn mentioned, the group projection was additionally a operate of Joshua’s recognition. Winning gold on the London Olympics in 2012 ensured Joshua would flip professional with a built-in viewers in Britain. In April 2017, a reported 90,000 spectators watched him defeat Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium in London for the W.B.A., W.B.O. and I.B.F. titles.
“He’s the biggest star in British boxing by far, and arguably the biggest star in world boxing,” Hearn mentioned.
Joshua’s subsequent check is Usyk, an opponent ordered by the World Boxing Organization, and bouts between marquee champions and obligatory challengers typically immediate stakeholders to suppose long run. A win on Saturday ought to place Joshua to battle the winner of subsequent month’s battle between Fury and Wilder.
But Usyk’s résumé suggests he's not an afterthought. Like Joshua, he gained Olympic gold in 2012. He turned skilled as a cruiserweight and gained each main sanctioning physique’s title in that division. In his final cruiserweight bout, he crushed the English star Tony Bellew, and he has gained each his bouts since shifting to heavyweight in 2019.
“Every fight makes history,” Usyk mentioned by a translator on the information convention on Thursday. “Me and Anthony are going to make another step in history. Something people will talk about. Something people will remember.”
The match grew to become doable after some only-in-boxing courtroom sparring amongst Wilder, Fury and Joshua.
In May, Hearn mentioned that Fury and Joshua had signed for a mid-August title unification bout. It was deliberate to be staged in Saudi Arabia and every fighter may have probably earned 9 figures. But Wilder sued to cease the battle, arguing that after shedding to Fury in February 2020 he had exercised the rematch clause in his contract and gained the authorized proper to battle Fury subsequent. A choose agreed and ordered a Wilder-Fury battle, forcing Joshua to regroup and face Usyk.
The ensuing battle pits Johsua, a robust puncher whose typically porous protection makes him susceptible, in opposition to Usyk, a calculating southpaw who counterpunches with authority.
“If styles make fights, we’re in for a very, very special night,” Ed Breeze, the manager vice chairman of DAZN, which can stream the battle card, mentioned on the information convention.
Similar circumstances preceded Joshua’s first skilled defeat in June 2019. A scheduled title protection in opposition to Jarrell Miller fell by when Miller failed a doping check, and Joshua selected to proceed with a brand new opponent on the identical date for his U.S. debut at Madison Square Garden. Andy Ruiz stepped in for Miller and scored a seventh-round win by technical knockout.
Joshua regained his titles in a rematch six months later, however mentioned the Ruiz loss had taught him the worth of a reset and a full coaching camp.
So after an surprising change this time, as a substitute of slotting Usyk into the August date, Joshua moved the battle to September to provide it and his undefeated challenger the eye they deserve.
“It’s not complicated. If you tell me I’m fighting King Kong, I’ll give it a go,” Joshua mentioned on Thursday. “It’s an opportunity for me to work. He’s going to work, I’m going to work.”