Anthony Joshua loses weight ahead of clash with Usyk
Anthony Joshua cut a lean, powerful figure as he weighed in at 17st 2lbs (109kg) for Saturday’s world heavyweight title defence against Oleksandr Usyk.
The three-belt champion tipped the scales almost 20lb (9kg) heavier than Usyk’s 15st 11lbs (100kg) and at the same weight as his last fight.
Joshua, 31, has shed the pounds in recent years, leaving fans asking if the British heavyweight is deliberately slimming down.
Does he know his best weight, or is he tailoring his weight with a particular opponent in mind?
When Joshua weighed in for his first pro fight against Emanuele Leo in 2013, he was a sprightly 16st 6lbs (104kg). Four years later he reached his highest weight – 18st 2lbs (115kg) before fighting Carlos Takam – but there has been a noticeable shift since, and he was 16st 13lbs (108kg) for his rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019.
He put on a few more pounds for his next encounter, against Kubrat Pulev, but fans have been surprised how lean he has looked heading into this weekend’s fight.
“It depends on the opponent and him feeling at his best moving around the ring,” Joshua’s long-term physio Rob Madden told BBC Sport.
“He’s fought [Wladimir] Klitschko at 116kg, he fought Ruiz at 109kg, so that’s a seven or eight kilo difference.
“I think for Ruiz II he was probably a touch light. None of the team can say to him: ‘We think you should be 113kg’. That’s something he only really knows. That’s where he takes charge.”
Joshua’s defeat by Ruiz on his American debut in the summer of 2019 sent shockwaves through the sport.
Ruiz was virtually unknown, but stripped Joshua of his world titles and undefeated record in the most illustrious of settings at Madison Square Garden.
Joshua shed 10lb for the rematch, successfully opting to outbox Ruiz over 12 rounds rather than engaging in another firefight.
And he has been much more hands-on in the running of his camp.
“In the early days, he didn’t know what he needed,” said Madden.
“During the recent stage of his career he’s tried to take the reins a bit more over various aspects.
“There was probably a shift after the Ruiz fight, where he wanted to gain a bit more control over how things were done in camp. Not in a bad way. I think that’s a sign of maturity in an athlete.”
Madden said Joshua’s fighting weight is the result of a “team strategy” but that ultimately Joshua knows best “the weight that suits him”.
“I wouldn’t say he fully makes the call,” he said.
“He’s expressed to us at 116kg he felt too heavy and fatigued a lot earlier. At 109kg he was really light and nimble, but felt he could have been a bit heavier.
“It’s been a journey of learning of what works for him and what doesn’t.”
Usyk, 34, is a formidable opponent but is naturally a cruiserweight and reigned as the undisputed champion in the division.
The Ukrainian is a renowned tactician, and Tyson Fury’s co-promoter Frank Warren is convinced Joshua has tailored his weight with Usyk in mind.
“Joshua looks a bit slimmer,” he told BBC Sport. “He’s going for speed. He’s got to be more mobile.”
Usyk would be an impressive scalp for Joshua, but the biggest challenge is still to come.
Fury faces Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas next month, and Joshua is eager to fight his domestic rival should he win.
Madden expects Joshua would again adjust his weight for that fight – and can do so quickly.
“Fury hasn’t been on the mind,” he said. “It was until very recently, but the focus is on Usyk.
“He can genetically change quite quickly. If he wanted to gain lean weight quickly he can and he can shed it pretty quick as well.
“He’ll know how he feels at which weight and in his head he’ll be able to know where he wants to be with Tyson.”
Joshua said this week he would “come in light” to suit his gameplan.
“I’ll be on my bike all night,” he said. “Run around the ring, try not to get hit. I don’t want to get out of 140 heartbeats per minute, so I’m really skinny.
“I’m as solid as a rock. I’m strong. I’m good at the weight.
“I’ve learnt about training for specific opponents. When you’re knocking out guys in three or four rounds, it’s different. I studied boxing and what works for me, and weight is not a priority.”