Gareth A Davies | Anthony Joshua has to be more aggressive

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The countdown is on to Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight rematch with Oleksandr Usyk. Who will win in Jeddah on Saturday?

Tyson Fury may have announced his retirement and given up his Ring Magazine belt, but he could lie in wait for the winner, especially if it’s AJ who emerges victorious in Saudi Arabia.

Ahead of the fight, Gareth A Davies spoke to David Alorka to preview the ‘Rage on the Red Sea’.

Is Usyk favourite to retain his belts?

“I think you have to favour Oleksandr Usyk. He outboxed Anthony Joshua the first time. He hit Joshua with punches that he didn’t see coming. He was never really hurt in the fight. He had Joshua in trouble late in the fight, he was bossing it more as the fight went on.

“There were moments when AJ had great successes during the contest, but Usyk is such a crab-like mover, he’s southpaw, he’s tricky, he’s got great ring skills. He can do it again and he’s got bigger for this one, and he’s got stronger, because he knows that AJ’s going to come at him.

“I still make him the favourite. I’d say that this is a 75/25 or a 70/30 fight that we’re seeing in Usyk’s favour.”

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What does AJ need to do differently?

“I think he’s got to be more aggressive this time. He’s changed his camp from the English Institute of Sport to Loughborough to train under people and around people who are at the top of their sports, people like Adam Peaty. He’s changed his trainer. He’s dropped Rob McCracken. He’s gone with Robert Garcia, who’s renowned for getting his fighters to be more aggressive.

“Anthony’s got to use educated pressure this time. He’s got to use the early rounds to find momentum and start to impose himself hard on Usyk and find ways of touching him and getting inside him and maybe being dirty, using his elbows, pushing Usyk around. But he’s got to do it in an educated way. He’s got a great jab, but he’s just got to find his momentum earlier in this fight.”

What are Usyk’s weaknesses?

“I thought we saw some of his weaknesses in his two other heavyweight fights against Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora, where there were periods in the fights where it was possible to dominate him or bully him.

“I think AJ will take a leaf out of that book in this fight and try and get there a little bit more, not be as gentlemanly as he is very often, just be a bit nastier, have that spite in you, go in there dark.

“Footwork’s really important, but the hustle and bustle that Chisora put on Usyk for five/six rounds, where Usyk is moving around the ring and kind of using the entire ring is what Joshua should be doing. Don’t let Usyk stand with you and come forward, put him under pressure, make him move, don’t necessarily take the centre of the ring, don’t follow him too much. There’s so much Joshua’s got to do against a guy who could arguably be in the top three pound-for-pound in the world, some people think he’s the best in the world.

“It’s a tricky fight, but it’s about landing those big shots for Joshua and getting his jab landing. He let the fight get away from him last time. But I do think he’ll be a different man this time, the game plan was wrong, we know that, and he knows he didn’t leave it all in the ring, but he will this time.”

How does Gareth see the fight going?

“Joshua’s going to try, this time, to box when Usyk fights, by hitting him with a jab if Usyk’s coming in to fight and then fighting when Usyk’s trying to box. That’s the ideal strategy in this fight.

“If he can do that, I think he can get a knockout within six or seven rounds. He can get a knockout any time, AJ, but I think if he puts it on Usyk, I think he can win in the first seven rounds of this fight.

“I favour Usyk because Usyk has got so many skills that are just sublime, and he’s proven that. But whoever wins, by rights, should face Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight title.”

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What happens if AJ loses?

“There are still some great fights out there for him. His stock will fall. If he gets knocked out early then his stock will fall dramatically. If it’s an amazing fight that goes to the wire, his stock will rise, even if he loses it might rise, but he needs to win.

“If he wins there’s Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Dillian Whyte, Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois, so many great fights for him. There’s so much on the line for Anthony Joshua in this contest. I just hope his mindset is right. I think mindset is as important as anything else for him in this fight.”

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