Anthony Joshua insists he's not in boxing for the fame with 68,000 fans set to pack Spurs stadium as big crowds return

Anthony Joshua insists he's not in boxing for the fame with 68,000 fans set to pack Spurs stadium as big crowds return

IT MIGHT not be the fight the nation demanded but, for the first time in three years, Anthony Joshua will  pack out a major British stadium again tomorrow night.

Joshua claims he is not in the fight game for the fame, but to lift the profile of his sweet science to unprecedented levels.



That he undoubtedly did in 2017 and 2018, when we grew accustomed to AJ’s big nights out, as he slayed Wladimir Klitschko, Carlos Takam, Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin in front of 80,000 crowds at Wembley and Cardiff.

Since then, Joshua lost his crown to Andy Ruiz Jr in New York, won it back in a soulless desert setting in Saudi Arabia, then endured the pandemic like the rest of us before he knocked out Kubrat Pulev in front of a tiny audience at  Wembley Arena last year.

At Tottenham’s magnificent new stadium tomorrow night, Joshua will put his three belts on the line in front of a 68,000 crowd against Ukraine’s former undisputed world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.

And Joshua, 31, said: “When I  started boxing in around 2008, there was a global financial crisis and no real investment in sport, no governments were investing on boxing.

"But I committed and I worked hard and brought attention back to boxing.

“I don’t promote boxing to be famous, I do it so we can all benefit from it. I work hard to make sure boxing is a high profile, respected sport.”

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Promoter Eddie Hearn can claim all he likes that it ‘doesn’t get any bigger than this’.

But we all know this was supposed to be the year Joshua would fight Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight crown, in what would have undoubtedly been the biggest contest in British boxing history.
We must wait for that.

Perhaps until Joshua and Fury are past their prime, as Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were when they finally got it on.

Or perhaps we will never see the two Brits face off. Boxing politics is a murky world of claim and counter-claim and who’s dodging who.

Usyk, a cunning technician, does represent a serious test for Joshua, while Fury completes his trilogy with Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas in a fortnight’s time.

Should either Brit lose, we may never witness two British fighters contesting the undisputed world heavyweight title.

Still, there is a buzz about this one. Full houses at sporting events still have a novelty value and British boxing has not seen an occasion like this one since Povetkin was knocked out at Wembley in 2018.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy was an interested onlooker at yesterday’s press conference as Hearn bigged up his world-class venue, which will host NFL matches and Guns N’ Roses concerts but is unlikely to stage Champions League football again any time soon.

This fight, between two Olympic gold medallists from London 2012, is arguably Joshua’s toughest test since his epic defeat of Klitschko in 2017.

And old Dr Steelhammer’s fellow Ukrainian Usyk — a showman who wanted to be an actor and turned up at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium yesterday dressed in a flamboyant red suit and mustard shirt — recalls that contest keenly.

Usyk, a 34-year-old southpaw, said: “I remember it was a big fight and  Joshua was knocked down. I remember Joshua took a little pause, a timeout, but then he went on to win.

“It was a big event with 80,000 people watching, but it means nothing now. Because on Saturday it is a different boxer and place.

“That Klitschko fight showed Joshua has vulnerabilities but everyone has vulnerabilities. You can show them or hide them, but we all have them.

“The Anthony who fought Klitschko is not connected to the guy I am fighting.”

Rob McCracken, who has trained Joshua since his amateur days, said: “The first real challenge for Anthony was Klitschko. It was a big ask, Klitschko had dominated for years.

“But he has always just wanted to learn on the job and take on all comers. It’s what he is about.

“Anthony will fight anyone, he always does, and Usyk has a similar record in the cruiserweight division.”

🥊 Joshua vs Usyk: All the TV, stream and undercard info ahead of Saturday's heavyweight bout

Joshua was playing it cool yesterday, claiming fight night would merely be an extension of his training camp, ‘Where you get to see me hitting a live punchbag instead’.

“I am not an easy touch for anyone,” he said, “And, 100 per cent, the last place you would want to be is facing myself.”

And certainly not when Joshua is back in front of his adoring public at long last.

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