ANTHONY JOSHUA STOOD in the center of the ring in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, and soaked in the moment as confetti rained down on him.
He dealt with doubt, disappointment and uncertainty in the aftermath of his upset defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019, but six months later, redemption was his. And boy was it sweet.
Once again on top as a unified champion after a lopsided points win over Ruiz in their rematch, Joshua was now plotting a new path. His No. 1 mission: Pursue the undisputed heavyweight championship. After all, Joshua needed only one more title to become the first unquestioned ruler in the division’s four-belt era.
But before Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) could meet fellow champion Tyson Fury in one of the modern era’s biggest fights, Oleksandr Usyk had his say. The Ukrainian not only defeated Joshua, but did so in dominant fashion. On the verge of being stopped in the final round, Joshua ultimately lost by unanimous decision.
After the way Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) dismantled him, the odds are long for Joshua (nearly 3-to-1, per Caesars Sportsbook) in the rematch. The enormity of the challenge prompted him to part ways with Rob McCracken, the trainer who led him to both an Olympic gold medal and the heavyweight championship. Robert Garcia, who guided 14 fighters to championships and has been honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) as Trainer of the Year, is now tasked with leading Joshua to a third heavyweight championship reign.
This weekend, Joshua will find himself back in Saudi Arabia for another rematch. With a victory over Usyk on Saturday (DAZN, 1 p.m. ET, with main event expected to start at 5:30 p.m. ET), Joshua can move to the brink of a matchup with Fury, who insists he is retired, but just weeks ago said he would fight Joshua for free, and continue his march toward greatness in boxing’s glamor division.
“I’ve got a… third chance to become heavyweight champion of the world…,” Joshua said. “I’m not just gonna go in there thinking it’s gonna be easy. I will address the weaknesses and then I’ll make sure I get it right and become champion again”Anthony Joshua
Long the second-biggest star in global boxing after Canelo Alvarez, Joshua is in danger of losing his grip of that perch with a third loss. Ahead of the career-defining night, Joshua realizes the magnitude of what lies in front of him, yet is almost eerily at ease in his confidence to overcome the odds and knows this is a must-win situation.
“I feel when I go and beat Usyk, I’ll get the credit I deserve again,” Joshua, 32, told ESPN in June. “And I’ll get the admiration for being a true boxing legend. …. I fought for the heavyweight championship in my 16th fight; I felt like it’s kind of overlooked.
“This is my 12th title fight in a row…” he added. “I just feel like sometimes even though we’re selling out arenas and it’s good to be popular, I don’t really care for that stuff. I’d just want the respect in the division. … I think this time I’ll get it right.”