By From Duncan Bech, PA Sport, Jeddah
Anthony Joshua bristles at the debate over his future if he loses Saturday’s career-defining rematch with Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah.
Joshua is seeking to reclaim the WBA, IBF and WBO belts he lost to pound for pound contender Usyk through an emphatic points decision at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September.
If successful, the Briton will become a three-time heavyweight world champion having previously avenged a stoppage defeat to Andy Ruiz in 2019.
Victory at the King Abdullah Sports City would likely set up a potential seismic domestic showdown with Tyson Fury, while a third professional loss would propel him below Usyk and Fury in the division’s hierarchy.
With the crossroads moment beckoning, Joshua has faced repeated questions over the consequences of classy southpaw Usyk retaining the belts and the 32-year-old has hinted he could walk away.
“It’s up to me at the end of the day, it’s not up to anyone else what I do with my career. Do you know what I mean? It’s more of a personal decision what I do with my career,” he said.
“But if the game doesn’t want me any more, I don’t have to do this. Why do I do it? It’s because it’s all I know.
“This is my 12th consecutive world title fight. I’ve been in world title fights back to back 12 times.
“It happens – if you’re fighting people at world level, you’re meeting people of world level quality. I’m not fighting people who are below par.
“This is the third Olympic gold medallist I’m fighting. I’m fighting good fighters. I took a loss before and I came back. But if the game doesn’t need me any more…”
Promoter Eddie Hearn insists that any decision over Joshua’s future will be made in the knowledge that Usyk is a “genius”.
The Ukrainian, who enlisted in the Kiev defence force when Russia invaded his homeland in February, won all but 15 of his 350 amateur fights and has built a flawless professional record of 19 wins.
Derek Chisora pushed Usyk for 12 rounds before falling to a points decision when they clashed in 2019 and he believes Joshua, his friend and former Finchley ABC colleague, could rebuild from another setback.
“There’s always a way back in boxing. There are always so many routes back into the Premier League and to win it,” Chisora told the PA news agency.
“Win or lose, it doesn’t matter because there’s always a comeback trail. What is the top anyway? You go out to get drunk, you get drunk and you keep drinking to get drunker and drunker, so where is the top?
“You make £20million it’s not enough so you make £40million and you still want more. What is enough?
“To be at the top is to have a family and live a family lifestyle and AJ’s doing that.”
Chisora faced Vitali Klitschko for the WBC world heavyweight title in 2012 and the Londoner says the immediate challenge facing Joshua and Usyk is calming their minds.
“You start getting nervous. You start contemplating what happens if you lose, how are you going to win. Things go on in your mind,” he said.
“What you really don’t want to do is embarrass yourself on the big stage. Right now is a big mental battle for both fighters. They’re smiling outwardly, but truly inside they’re nervous as hell.”