TITLE DEFENCE: Anthony Joshua to fight Oleksandr Usyk in September
PA - Nick Potts
Anthony Joshua will defend his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles against former undisputed world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk as the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hosts a boxing event for the first time on September 25.
Joshua had seemed on course for a blockbuster all-British showdown against Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia in August but the bout was scuppered when a United States arbitrator ordered the WBC champion to take on Deontay Wilder again.
While that trilogy contest, scheduled to take place this weekend, has been rearranged for October 9 in Las Vegas following Fury testing positive for Covid-19, it has been announced Joshua will fulfil his WBO mandatory in London.
The fight pits two London 2012 gold medallists against each other, with Joshua topping the podium in the super-heavyweight division while the decorated Usyk reigned supreme in the heavyweight bracket.
“The date is set and we are fully locked in,” said Joshua. “I put it all on the line again and it’s time to defend my crown. We are two Olympic gold medallists who have fought our way to the top and never avoided challenges.
“The stadium is exceptional, the atmosphere will be electric, I’m honoured to be the first person to fight in such an awe inspiring venue. The stage is set and I am ready to handle business.”
Renowned for his nimble footwork, exemplary hand speed and head movement, Usyk collected all four major world belts at cruiserweight and has won all 18 of his professional contests, 13 of which have finished inside the distance.
Having had just two fights in boxing’s blue riband division since stepping up from 200lbs, there remains lingering questions about the Ukrainian’s punch resistance and his ability to trouble the top heavyweights with his power.
“The path will be mastered by the walking one,” said the charismatic Usyk, who at 34 is three years older than Joshua.
Joshua (24-1, 22KOs) had been scheduled to fight Kubrat Pulev at Spurs’ home ground last June but the coronavirus pandemic led to the contest being switched to Wembley Arena last December, when the Briton retained his titles with a ninth-round knockout victory.
There were 1,000 fans granted access to that fight, the last time Joshua was in action, but Matchroom is gearing up to welcome in excess of 60,000 spectators at the 62,850-capacity outdoor stadium.
“Olympic gold vs Olympic gold, unified world heavyweight champion vs undisputed cruiserweight world champion this one has it all,” said Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter.
“I can’t wait to stage this huge event in front of over 60,000 at the stunning Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 25.”
Usyk’s most recent bout came in a points decision win over Joshua’s compatriot Derek Chisora last October while this will be the southpaw’s third fight in Britain, having seen off Tony Bellew in November 2018.
“This is a huge fight between two gentlemen of the sport,” said Alexander Krassyuk, Usyk’s manager. “Wow! The two London 2012 Olympic champions are set to collide for the heavyweight crowns. Let the best man win, and we will see you again for the rematch!”
The bout will be screened on Sky Sports Box Office as Joshua has one fight left on his deal with the broadcaster, which parted company with Hearn last month as the Matchroom chairman linked up with streaming platform DAZN.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy welcomed the fight being arranged at his club’s stadium, saying: “This is a huge occasion.
“Anthony Joshua is an icon in the world of sport and to have him fight here in London N17, against a top opponent in Oleksandr Usyk, will be amazing for the area of Tottenham. This event will once again showcase the stadium’s ability to take the hosting of world-class sporting occasions to the next level – we cannot wait for September 25.”
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