Anthony Joshua is in the unusual position of being the underdog ahead of his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk.
But former world title holder Callum Smith believes his fellow Briton can turn the tide on the champion this weekend, live on Sky Sports ticket officealthough he feels “he must return to the old Joshua”.
Smith’s boxing career has run in tandem with Joshua’s. Twelve years ago they were amateur teammates in Team GB. As the two progressed in professional sports, they often boxed on the same bill, which will be the case again on Saturday when Smith fights under the Usyk-Joshua card as he seeks a title shot. worldwide in its new division.
Like Joshua, Smith has fought in Saudi Arabia before. In fact, Saturday’s venue, the King Abdullah Sports Center in Jeddah, was the site of Smith’s career high point; there in 2018, he beat George Groves to win the WBA super middleweight title.
This weekend, now at light heavyweight, he has a crucial world title eliminator against Frenchman Mathieu Bauderlique. More used to boxing in crowded arenas in the west, he knows what to expect from boxing in Saudi Arabia. All that matters, he advises Joshua, is focus.
“As soon as you’re in the ring, you can be anywhere. You don’t turn off, but you step in,” Smith said. sky sports. “I think being an international amateur helps with that – you can hear a pin drop when you fight a Russian in Turkey.
“You kind of get used to it and you have a job to do and you focus on what you’re doing. I’ve never been one to mess with the crowd or stuff like that anyway. I I’ve always been quite professional. I go there to do my job.
“It’s great to fight at home, but the goal and the job are always the same, and that’s to go out and win.”
For Joshua, winning the main event has never been more vital. “There’s a lot on the line. It’s a big fight for both of them. You have three of the four belts on the line, you wouldn’t expect less but I love them personally, they’re two nice characters,” Smith said. , a World Boxing Super Series winner like Usyk.
Like Joshua does against Usyk, Smith fought a great pound for pound himself. He lost a points decision to Canelo Alvarez. For elite fighters like Smith and Joshua, it suddenly becomes unsettling when they come up against the rare opponent elusive enough to even dodge their blow. For top boxers, it’s a situation they’re just not used to.
“[Canelo] is a decent puncher. The only thing that surprised me when I was with him was his defense. He’s so hard to hit cleanly,” Smith said. “He then stops you throwing.
“Your combination stops, you don’t really throw the third because your second fell through the air.
“Usyk did this to Joshua [in the first fight]he couldn’t land his jab,” Smith added. “With Joshua, if he can’t land a jab, it kind of stops you throwing two or three or four when fighters are elusive like that.
Usyk vs. Joshua 2: weigh-in
Friday August 19 7:00 p.m.
“But he knows now. He’s with him. He’s had a lot of time to think about it and come up with a plan to beat him a second time. He got it right with [Andy] Ruiz second time. It’s a bit of the opposite, he fought against Ruiz and had to box a second time. This time he probably boxed too much [in the first fight] and must return to old Joshua. It’s a good fight and hopefully I can sit back and enjoy it.”
Smith thinks Joshua can turn the tide against Usyk in a rematch. “I think the first fight, for me, was convincing for Usyk. Joshua made it pretty easy for him. He got away from him and stood in front of him. I think [Usyk] was probably surprised at how easy it was. I’m not Joshua’s coach, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I think he needs to go a little bit further for him and make him feel like he’s with the most great man,” he said.
“I don’t think he used [his size] as much as he could have. He has to make it a little uncomfortable, but he has to be smart while he does it. I think Usyk is smart and would counteract any mistakes Joshua makes, so he can’t really be reckless.
“It could backfire if he goes after him and doesn’t get rid of him, so he could get gassed and he becomes a bit more of a sitting target for Usyk.
“I think they’re both going to adjust from the first fight, they’ve both done 12 rounds together so they both know each other a little better this time around.
“It’s tough. I think Joshua could go for it and we saw Usyk’s face after the first fight, quite marked and it wasn’t as physical as it could have been.
“So if Joshua comes after him, he might get rid of him.”
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Anthony Joshua’s huge heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk will take place on Saturday August 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Usyk vs. Joshua 2 now!