Inside an elegant room in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, former Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua says victory is the only option come Saturday night.
Joshua, who has spent his career under the spotlight unifying heavyweight titles, was joined by new trainer Robert Garcia at the final press conference. There were no interruptions or insults traded – just two composed men ready to fight. Joshua, who lost his belts in the first fight with Oleksandr Usyk, says he ‘must win.’
“Must win. I like the pressure. It’s been tough. Robert Garcia, Angel Fernandez, and existing members of my team have definitely pushed me. Challenged me. But mostly yeah, just get the job done and, God willing, we’ll be victorious.”
“I [have] got goals that I want to achieve in the ring on the night, and I’m going to be disciplined enough and follow them through. I’m looking forward to it.”
Surrounded by gold chandeliers and watched closely by journalists, Usyk’s relaxed posture was draped in ancestral dress. It’s a stark reminder that the fighter has a nation at war on his shoulders. In between scribbling on a notepad, perhaps taking on a puzzle as complicated as the one he presents in the ring, he spoke about what he expects from the rematch.
“We learned [from] each other in the first fight. But I don’t think it’s going to be the new bout – the last bout will be continued from round 13.”
“We had enough time to study each other, and this Saturday night it will be a great fight.”
“We were born to compete. For life, for belts, for anything. The one who does not compete, does not live. All our lives are competitions for anything, for something, for somebody. That’s why we are competing.”
Before the press conference ended, AJ made a point of thanking a long list of sparring partners – which was met with a round of applause. Fans can read into that what they will. Usyk, for his part, reiterated the support for the unsung heroes in the gym. They can’t, however, enter the ring on Saturday night to help either man.
Joshua is looking to become three-time heavyweight champion. Usyk is fighting to keep his belts and move a step closer to going down in history as only the second person to become undisputed at both cruiserweight and heavyweight.
Coming face to face, soundtracked by chants of ‘three-time’ from AJ’s team, the pair stared at each other in silence for a minute until it was broken by the British fighter whispering ‘good luck.’
Usyk made sure he had the last word though, taking centre stage and bursting into a song about his home country – the liveliest moment of the broadcast.
UK fans can watch the rematch on Sky Sports Box Office to see who’s crowned, as famed-announcer Michael Buffer put it, the ‘King of the World.’