Anthony Joshua’s best match is against Vladimir Klitschko and it remains his first grade A test. It was the first time the British-Nigerian would get a black eye from a straight blow.
It was also the first time Joshua would pick himself up from the canvas to win a match. He had always overpowered his opponents but against Klitschko, he had to find extra energy to defeat the Ukrainian veteran.
Joshua was younger, less experienced, less tactical with lesser reach, yet he mustered a great courage to subdue one of the most dangerous and highly cerebral boxers of all time in April 2017.
Klitschko does not just throw punches. He is one boxer that takes his time to take out his opponent. He was going to defeat Joshua until the Briton rekindled the hunger in him to win.
At the brink of what could have been his first defeat, Joshua’s corner uttered a simple statement, “Fight your fight”.
His promoter, Eddie Hearn said after the match “I thought we were on our way to lose the match after Joshua was down.”
However, Joshua rose from his seat to chase Klitschko and he eventually captured the 40 year-old Ukrainian, sending him to the canvas twice in round 11 and winning on technical knockout.
That was Joshua. He went ahead to show the same energy in his first three rounds against Andy Ruiz junior in the US, clubbing the Mexican down with a very heavy right hand.
But things changed in the same round when Ruiz’s hit him in the temple, Joshua never came back. He fell like a pack of cards as he gasped for breath. He lost the match but won the rematch in a classical way, using tactics instead of power.
Even against Kubrat Pulev, it was clear that the loss to Ruiz was still haunting Joshua. The Briton was so hesitant to move closer to Pulev. It took Joshua about seven rounds to end the match that should not last two rounds because he was afraid of being hit by the opponent.
Of course he beat Pulev, I was not satisfied with his performance. What gave Joshua his past honour was his hunger to fight and the audacity to exchange punches, pound for pound. He had since lost this attribute and until he finds it, he will lose against Olesandr Usyk on Saturday.
No heavyweight boxer has got the quality of Usyk at present. He is fast, mobile and wise. Watching his past matches, I see a boxer who takes his opponents on a long walk to suffocate them and later break them down.
Usyk is a boxer that has conditioned himself for 12 rounds of exchanges. He does not enter the ring to seek knockout, he wants to start gathering his points from landing his jabs on his opponents.
For Usyk, every punch throws matters, which means that Joshua cannot out punch him. He will always out punch Joshua and win any day.
However, Usyk is beatable only by a hungrier Joshua who will not mind to throw his body in front so that he can land a powerful blow. In the process, Joshua will get hurt no doubt but he will also wreak havoc on his opponent.
Saturday’s match is going to be Joshua’s biggest test to either risk all and regain his belts or take a walk away from boxing after losing.
Usyk looks hungrier because of the war in Ukraine. He will be coming to the match on Saturday with the determination to keep the pride of his country.
He has not only added weight, he is sparing with taller and heavily built partners to perfect his strategy against Joshua. As a matter of fact, Usyk has recruited a Nigerian boxer as a sparing partner to condition the mentality of Joshua. To him, the match is an extension of the Ukrainian war.
Anyway, Joshua is also perfecting his tactics. He will need power more. I can only wish him good luck.