Anthony Joshua was determined to prove he could out-box Oleksandr Usyk last year in London.
The former IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion paid for being so stubborn by losing his titles for the second time in 27 months to the undefeated Ukrainian southpaw. The British superstar learned numerous lessons last September 25, most notably that he needed to finally change trainers and that he had to find ways to improve his suspect stamina.
Joshua also realized after going 12 rounds with Usyk that if he takes a more aggressive approach to their rematch that he can knock out the former undisputed cruiserweight champion Saturday night in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The 6-foot-6 Joshua, who weighed in at 240 pounds for their first fight, intends to commit more to his punches and place more emphasis on trying to knock out Usyk when they square off at Jeddah Superdome. Taking such chances clearly would make Joshua more vulnerable against an accurate technician like Usyk.
Nevertheless, if the 2012 Olympic gold medalist has better stamina Saturday night, it’ll give him a better chance to take out Usyk if the defending champion fades at times in the second half of their bout, the way he did during their first fight.
“I’ve gotta be there 12 rounds,” Joshua said Wednesday during a conference call with a small group of reporters. “Last time, I wasn’t there 12 rounds. I faded myself. So, it shows it was quite an intense heavyweight matchup. I think I threw 600 punches in the fight. It’s not as much as like David Tua and Ike Ibeabuchi, who set the record [for punches thrown and landed by heavyweights in June 1997]. But that sh*t was crazy. I think even what’s his name, that Polish fighter from America, ‘Babyface,’ Kownacki, yeah, he threw a hell of a lot of punches as well [against Chris Arreola in surpassing the Tua-Ibeabuchi totals].
“I didn’t throw that many. But we threw a lot of punches, and it was challenging. I’m looking forward to now putting some power behind them shots as well and definitely think I can hurt him. I believe so, yeah, a hundred percent, I can knock him out. A hundred percent I can do it. Hundred percent.”
Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) has produced 92 percent of his wins by knockout. The chiseled ex-champion is 2-1 in 12-round bouts, but he seemingly stands a much better chance of avenging his loss to Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) if he can take out a fighter favored by a 2-1 margin, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
Meanwhile, Usyk suspects that if he had another 30 seconds with which to work in the 12th round, he might’ve at least dropped a fatigued Joshua in their initial meeting. Usyk also said soon after he upset Joshua that he stopped trying to knock out his bigger, stronger opponent early in their bout because his trainer, Anatoly Lomachenko, urged him to take a different approach almost 11 months ago at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The 12-round rematch between Usyk, 35, and Joshua, 32, is the main event of a Sky Sports Box Office pay-per-view show scheduled to start at 6 p.m. BST in the United Kingdom and Ireland (£26.95). Usyk-Joshua II will headline DAZN’s coverage in the United States, which will begin at 1 p.m. ET.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.