Joshua retains weight advantage over Usyk for Saudi clash

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Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – British boxer Anthony Joshua weighed more than 10 kilos (22 pounds) more than defending champion Oleksandr Usyk on Friday ahead of their world title rematch in Saudi Arabia.

Two-time heavyweight champion Joshua tipped the scales at 110.9 kilos (244.5 lbs) while Ukraine’s Usyk weighed in at 100.5 kilos (221.6 lbs), both similar to the fight in the last year in London.

Usyk, 19-0 and the bookmakers’ favorite after his unanimous decision over Joshua, denied predictions that he had built up several pounds of muscle to counter the towering Joshua.

The fighters faced each other for 90 seconds before shaking hands and posing for the cameras.

“All that stuff, weight, head-to-head, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s all about the fight,” Joshua said. “I’m just ready for 12 rounds, 100%. Anything shorter than that is a bonus.”

Many commentators wrote off Joshua after a hesitant display against the quick and skilful Usyk at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London last September.

But the 6ft 6in (1.98m) man from Watford, who is striving to become a three-time world champion, has promised to be more “competitive”.

Promoter Eddie Hearn has suggested that Joshua will go for the knockout.

Saturday’s clash will be the 12th straight world title fight for Joshua, the 24-2 former Olympic gold medalist whose other pro loss was a TKO shock by Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019.

Joshua avenged that loss six months later at the ‘Clash of the Dunes’ in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, the first world heavyweight title fight in the conservative kingdom.

In Saturday’s undercard, Somalia-born Briton Ramla Ali will take on Crystal Garcia Nova of the Dominican Republic in the first women’s professional boxing match in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in sport, including Formula 1, Premier League football team Newcastle United and the LIV Golf circuit, a controversial rival to traditional circuits.

The investments are part of a multi-pronged strategy to diversify the oil-dependent economy led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 36-year-old Saudi de facto leader.

The moves have prompted accusations of “sportswashing” from activist groups who say Saudi Arabia hopes to deflect attention from its human rights record.

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