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)
21:40 – RESULT: It’s another Arab win, as Jordanian fighter Bader Al-Samreen defeats Azeri fighter Fuad Tarverdi in four rounds by technical knockout.
21:00 – RESULT: In a wonderfully tight fight in the light-heavyweight category, British fighter Callum Smith has pulled out a fourth round stoppage and sends his French opponent Mathieu Bauderlique to the canvas.
The Frenchman was hanging in there, but was finally undone in the closing stages of the round after a big left hand from Smith ended the contest.
The Liverpudlian boxer will now have a shot at the WBC light-heavyweight title belt.
“Good performance,” he said. “It’s been a long time out the ring, good to get back in.
“It puts me in line for the world title next, so a good night all round.
“I was surprised by how much he engaged with me early on. I thought he was going to move a lot and try to offset and then take me on later in the round.”
20:45 – The challenger is in the building…
20:30 – Former world champion Vladimir Klitschko, now heavily involved in his country Ukraine’s conflict with Russia, has wished both Joshua and Usyk good luck on social media…
19:50 – RESULT: It’s a controversial split decision as Badou Jack gets the win over Richard Rivera, who can’t quite believe he lost that 10-round bout. He appeared confident at the final bell…make of that one what you will…
“I felt like I definitely did enough,” Rivera said after the fight. “ I’m a little hurt because I really believed in the boxing judging system.
“I felt like regardless of the odds being against me, I came into his turf and under his stipulations and I still did my thing. I felt like I did enough for the victory.
“I believed in the justice system and I guess it failed me that time, but I’m not discouraged,” he added.
Jack, however, believed he definitely edge that one.
“I think I did enough,” Jack says. “(He had a) very awkward, ugly style, so I kind of fell into his game.
“It wasn’t my best night, but we got the job done.”
19:00 – The fans are starting to come into the arena in Jeddah and the atmosphere continues to build as we edge closer to the big fight of the night…
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!
“What an honor it is to be here in front of my home people, in front of this crowd,” he said in his post-fight interview.
“It’s been years and years of hard work that people don’t see behind the scenes, but it all leads to a few minutes, and what better thing to do in a few minutes than that?”
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