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Relaxed Anthony Joshua eyes early stoppage in bid to reclaim world titles

Anthony Joshua was in relaxed mood ahead of Saturday’s fight (Nick Potts/PA).
Anthony Joshua was in relaxed mood ahead of Saturday’s fight (Nick Potts/PA).

Anthony Joshua has mischievously forecasted a first-round knockout of Oleksandr Usyk when he attempts to reclaim his position as unified heavyweight champion in Jeddah on Saturday.

Joshua has spent the last four weeks in Saudi Arabia finalising preparations for ‘Rage on the Red Sea’ and on Monday he began media duties in a chaotic function room at the Shangri-La hotel.

Looking to win back the WBA, IBF and WBO belts he lost to Usyk when they first clashed at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium almost a year ago, the 2012 Olympic champion looked relaxed as he painted the picture of an early-stoppage win.

“It’s good to be back in Saudi Arabia. We’ve been here four weeks now, this is our fifth week. It feels like a second home, it’s been nice,” Joshua said.

“May the best man win at the end of the day. I’m praying for victory and praying for a good fight as well. I want to do it this time.

“I’m going to come out…ding ding ding round one. Good defence, thinking positive, step forward…boom boom…one-two…Usyk drops…Joshua becomes three-time champion of the world in Saudi Arabia. Life is good!”

When asked if the rematch was the biggest fight of his career, Joshua said: “Yes, most definitely. I’ve felt that pressure in my camp, 100 per cent. It has pushed me on.”

Oleksandr Usyk at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jeddah ahead
Oleksandr Usyk at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jeddah ahead (Nick Potts/PA).

Usyk, meanwhile, enters the showdown at King Abdullah Sports City armed with a message of goodwill from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as Ukraine continues to battle Russia’s invading armies.

Usyk insists that, while he is determined to lift spirits at home by ruling out the need for a trilogy fight, he feels as much pressure from a boxing public who have grown accustomed to success.

“He (Zelenskyy) supports me and I will talk to him soon. In every fight I am fighting for my people. I want my fans to be happy with what I am doing and that’s why I’m doing it,” the former undisputed cruiserweight champion said.

“We are a boxing country. We have many boxers who have been on top for many years and people get used to that, they want high-level boxing, so we need to give them the thing we’re used to.”

Anthony Joshua speaks to the media ahead of Saturday's fight
Anthony Joshua speaks to the media ahead of Saturday’s fight (Nick Potts/PA).

Joshua’s gameplan of attempting to outbox a master technician in the first fight backfired as he fell to a comprehensive points defeat and Usyk is an odds-on favourite to post another victory.

Robert Garcia is now in Joshua’s corner and new tactics have been promised in a bid to stop the 32-year-old’s career from going into freefall.

“I anticipate here in my mind that the style of boxing he will use, but I can’t say what it is because he will watch this and change his style,” Usyk said.

“I still have some time to go until the fight, but now it’s media week so it’s more about interviews now. We’ve done a lot in our training camp and we are ready to show it on Saturday.”