Not in 130 years of heavyweight fights has there been a win that could inspire a nation in Ukraine if Usyk beats Joshua | The Sun

ANTHONY JOSHUA, unless Oleksandr Usyk, kicks sand in his face, will become the third British fighter to regain the world heavyweight title for a second time.

He will join Lennox Lewis and Herbie Hide, who twice lost the crown yet bounced back to recapture it on two occasions.

AJ will find it extremely difficult to get his WBA, IBF and WBO belts back from the man who treated him to a 12-round masterclass of magical skills and tactical brilliance 11 months ago in London.

But he must know it's going to be that much harder because Usyk isn't only a virtuoso of the noble art but he's going to be doubly inspired by 40 million fellow Ukrainians willing him to win.

Boxing's most exciting, glamorous and lucrative division has been responsible for so many outstanding moments featuring giant personalities like Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.

But never throughout it's rich and colourful 130-year history has there ever been a fight where the outcome is more than likely to influence the morale of an an entire nation.


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Inevitably it's Ukraine's horrific and heart-breaking war with Russia, that's the overwhelming factor that engulfs this Saudi Arabian, desert dust-up.

Usyk when he stands in the ring listening to the Ukrainian national anthem as he waits the opening bell will have to have nerves of steel if he's not going to be overcome with emotion.

President Volodymyr Zelenskey, has been in touch with him throughout the build-up and there's no doubt he would have emphasised the vital importance of Usyk returning victorious to Kyiv.

I believe Max Schmeling is the only other fighter who can be compared to Usyk.

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He was put under extreme stress by his Head of State before he challenged Joe Louis, at Yankee Stadium, New York in June, 1938 – his name was Adolf Hitler.

Schmeling had sensationally KO'd the unbeaten Brown Bomber two years before.

Hitler and the Nazi party immediately embraced him and because he'd flattened a black man, used him as a propaganda tool to prove to the world the superiority of the Aryan race.

Max was often invited to the Reich Chancellory to take afternoon tea and have dinner with Hitler, Geobbels and Goring.

It was made abundantly clear to Schmeling what was expected of him before he sailed to America for his return with Louis and how important his success was to the German people. 

Louis brutally took just 124 seconds to destroy the myth of Aryan supremacy and poor Max ended up six weeks in hospital with two fractured vertebrae.

When he eventually got back to Berlin, Hitler and his gang dropped him like a mouldy bratwurst.

Not that Usyk will suffer the same fate if he should lose to Joshua – but I'm sure having beaten AJ once he's confident of a repeat performance.

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AJ admits his strategy was completely wrong last year – trying to outbox a maestro like Usyk was the utmost folly.

He surely now realises there's only one way he can restore his reputation and the faith of his fans.

He's got to use his size, strength and power to rough up the champion and take him out of his comfort zone – exactly what he should have done the first time.

Let's face facts – Joshua has not been the same since he suffered that shock seventh round defeat against roly-poly Andy Ruiz after being floored four times at Madison Square Garden.

In the return AJ easily outpointed Ruiz but was so cautious and stood so far off him you would have thought the American was suffering from Covid. 

Though in his next fight he stopped Kubrat Pulev in nine rounds.

Though there were definite signs he was gun shy and the evidence that he was very wary of exposing himself to danger was there for all to see when he fought Usyk.

It will be interesting to see what changes – if any – his new trainer Robert Garcia has introduced.

Joshua is 32 and has been a pro ten years – a bit late in the day to try to change the habits of a lifetime.  

But I don't believe Usyk, who has bulked up a bit despite the turmoil and trauma he's been through since the Russians invaded his country, has lost any of his talent or technique.

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Usyk is on a crusade and is fighting more for the flag than himself.

I expect once again he will prove to be too clever for AJ –  and I won't be surprised if this time he scores a late stoppage.

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