JEDDAH: Briton Anthony Joshua is fighting for his career on Saturday against Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, who can boost the morale of his compatriots in war-torn Ukraine by retaining his world heavyweight belts in Saudi Arabia.
Joshua, 32, has much on the line as he strives to become a three-time world champion and perhaps spark fellow Briton Tyson Fury into performing another U-turn on retiring and set up a blockbuster unifying title bout.
Back-to-back defeats by Usyk, who outboxed him in London last September, would be a career-crippling setback for the 2012 Olympics super heavyweight gold medallist who also crashed to a surprise TKO against Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019.
Usyk, the undefeated former cruiserweight world champion, won on an unanimous decision in only his third professional fight as a heavyweight.
Follow all the coverage as it happens below… (All times BST)
18:45 – RESULT: It’s a glorious night for home favorite Ziyad Al-Maayouf who wins with a TKO in the first round on his professional debut against Jose Alatorre!
18:20 – RESULT: Boom! Ramla Ali gets her seventh victory in a row one minute into the first round, in the very first female professional fight to be held in Saudi Arabia. Scintillating stoppage…
18:15 – ICYMI: Emirati boxer and UAE social media star Rashed Belhasa a.k.a. Money Kicks lost his debut professional fight earlier against Traycho Georgiev.
17:50 – RESULT: Atmosphere building up as we have another result, Andrew Tabiti was far too strong for James Wilson with a stoppage win in the first heavyweight fight of the night.
17:15 – RESULT: And it’s the first win of the night for Britain! Ben Whittaker gets a unanimous decision victory over Petar Nosic. The Englishman remains undefeated with the result.
16:45 – RESULT: First win of the night for Ukrainian boxing, Daniel Lapin improves his record to six unbeaten after a too-strong showing against Jozef Jurko – it’s a unanimous decision.
16:20 – Here’s a look at the full undercard for tonight’s Rage on the Red Sea bout…
16:10 – The stage is set for the big fight later tonight, and before the big fight, we’ve got an excellent undercard to enjoy. The first of which is about to get underway. Ukrainian Daniel Lapin takes on Jozef Jurko in a light-heavyweight bout.
16:00 – If you missed any of the weigh-in action from Friday, fear not. Catch up on the pre-fight drama here.
15:45 – Meanwhile, Usyk has never been knocked out in 129 outings, including in his outstanding 95-15 amateur career which like Joshua saw him win gold at the 2012 Olympics in the heavyweight division.
He has knocked out 13 opponents since turning pro.
The 35-year-old also has the enormous incentive of fighting for a country that has been defying a Russian invasion since February.
The bout will be screened free of charge across Ukraine.
“We had enough time to study each other,” Usyk said this week. “We were born to compete for life, for belts, for everything. The one who does not compete, does not win.”
15:30 – In response to losing that first fight to his Ukrainian opponent, Joshua recruited respected trainer Robert Garcia and is hinting at a more aggressive approach against the mobile and unpredictable southpaw.
“It’s all about the fight,” Joshua said at the weigh-in, where he maintained his 10-kilo (22 pounds) weight advantage over Usyk.
“I’m just ready for 12 rounds, 100 percent. Anything shorter than that, it’s a bonus.”
Stopping the 19-0 Ukrainian would be quite a feat.
* With AFP