Ernest Omoarelojie/Benin City
August 19, 2022.
Boxing officiandos have never been short of the appropriate moniker for big fights that capture prevailing moods. And the outcomes never came short of expectation for boxing fans either, given that the gladiators lived up to their billings. How much of that should boxing fans expect from both Oleksandr Usyk, reigning World Boxing Organization, WBO, World Boxing Association, WBA, International Boxing Organization, IBO, and International Boxing Federation, IBF, heavyweight champions, and former champion, Nigerian-born British former champion, Anthony Joshua?
March 8, 1971 provided one damned good moment for boxing enthusiasts across the globe to experience fistic ecstasy. It was a night they relished a titanic clash between boxing greats, Mohamed Ali and Joe Frazier at the Madison Square Garden, New York City, USA. Almost literally, Frazier went on to clip the butterfly wings in Ali after delivering a swaggering left for a decision win after which he quipped, “I always knew who the chpion is.” The encounter, nicknamed, ‘Fight of the Century’, truly lived up to its name.
In Manila, four years later, Ali returned in what was christened, Thrilla in Manila. For many reasons, including the fact that it was the third and final encounter between the duo, Quezon City, one of Phillipines’ outposts as centre of the boxing universe during the first decade of the 21st century, played host, more because of the exploits of Manny Pacquiao. Suffice to say that the boisterous Ali made mincemeat of Big Joe in the truly thrilling encounter.
Then came Ali’s fistic bustle with George Foreman at the May Stadium, in the heart of Kinshasa, Zaire, on October 30, 1974. Nicknamed, ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ a catchy but rather denigrating phrase for the continent, it was a fight in which a very vociferous 60,000-strong boxing fans bayed for blood and asked for the kill, Ali lived up and gave them what they wanted. After beating Former, then undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion, black and blue, he ended the fight on the eight round via a decisive, rumbling knockout.
Fast forward to 51 years later, August 20, 2022, to be precise, another Boxing Battle Royale is in the offing. This time, the Rage of the Red Sea, as the fight is aptly title, is between two modern boxing greats, Nigerian-born British former World Boxing Organization, WBO, World Boxing Association, WBA, International Boxing Federation, IBF, and International Boxing Organization, IBO, heavyweight champions, Anthony Joshua and reigning titles holder, Ukraine’s very skillful Oleksandr Usyk.
So what should the boxing world expect?
Challenger Joshua has since changed his backroom staff. Leading the pack is renowned trainer, Robert Garcia who, many expect to change his rather no-good, gentlemanly mental disposition inside the ring. Arguably coming from a rejigged inside-the-ring mental uplift, the gifted pugilist has promised to deliver unmitigated boxing aggression as part of his strategies to out-maneuver Usyk. With hardly any doubt, it is a reference to his acceptance of his new attitude, the absence of which was his undoing in not only his first encounter with Usyk in London but also the reason he was bursted by a flabby-looking Andy Ruiz Jr at the Maddison Square Garden, New York, on June 1, 2019
Joshua and Usyk have both conducted their mandatory public workouts. The both showcased a bit of what boxing fans should expect on Saturday night too. While the crowd appeared enamored by the Briton’s jolly-good-fella mien, the equally gentle charactered Ukranian went on to deliver a bit of his versatility by not dwelling on anything close to Joshua’s nightmare-his southpaw prowess. Effortlessly, he mimicked Joshua’s styles, smoothened by his very unflattering footwalk and overall quiet but menacingly dangerous carriage.
The question is, how much winning rage can either of them bring to the ring on Saturday?
Indeed, both boxers have completed the mandatory weigh-in too, coming up with hefty add-ons. While Joshua weighs 244lb, a slight 4lbs build-up on his 2021’s 240lb weight, Usyk came in at 221lb, a massive 20lbs extra weight from his London encounter’s 200lbs.
Could that be a reflection of the Ukrainian desire to end the bout on a quicker note or a tipping indicator of the Briton’s plan to grab a Knockout by being more fleet footed?
Joshua does appear to have real chances of taking back his titles. The only spanner however, is that Usyk seems unruffled by the aggression threat, too determined maintain much of his cool, shut-the-mouth-and-let-the-ring-decide disposition, the same style he adopted in London’s encounter. That perhaps answers why he readily dismissed Joshua’s aggression promise, insisting that if there is any one to deliver boxing aggression on Saturday night, he is the only one. As far as he is concerned, Joshua’s opinion is Joshua’s headache, not his.
Yet the question remains-Joshua or Usyk?
The answer, like others, will be known at the end of the predictably explosive encounter at the King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday night.