Anthony Joshua must remember he is in the 'hurt business', says Evander Holyfield

·3 min read
Anthony Joshua must remember he is in the 'hurt business', says Evander Holyfield - GETTY IMAGES
Anthony Joshua must remember he is in the 'hurt business', says Evander Holyfield - GETTY IMAGES

Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield issued a warning to Anthony Joshua that he must remember he is in the "hurt business" ahead of his world title showdown with Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday.

Joshua's sequel with the Ukrainian is "a must-win fight" for the 32-year-old as he bids to claim back his three world title belts.

Holyfield conceded that he should have been "meaner" in his own career - and fears Joshua has fallen into the same trap.

"Anthony Joshua needs to keep focused that he is in the hurt business," Holyfield, who is in Jeddah for the showdown, told Telegraph Sport.

Holyfield, who fought both Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson twice, said the intention to inflict damage can slide from a fighter's mind once riches and accolades are bestowed upon a heavyweight champion of the world.

"Anthony Joshua is a nice guy - but this is the hurt business - and he needs to remind himself of that," said Holyfield. "I went into a couple of fights forgetting that and it cost me. I should have been meaner.

"Joshua has great attributes, and has power and weight advantages that he did not use in their first fight. He needs to cut off the ring, close the space, get hold of him, and impose himself on Usyk. He can do it - but needs to be mentally ready to commit himself to go into a battle."

"It sounds straightforward, but you need to be mean," added Holyfield, a former four-time heavyweight champion of the world. "It's easy to get distracted in the position he is in, and with all the attention he gets. His natural style is a hurtful puncher, and dictating in that way is key to making it an outcome that works for him. I can't stress that mindset enough."

Evander Holyfield during a press conference at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jeddah - PA
Evander Holyfield during a press conference at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jeddah - PA


Usyk, looking heavier and more robust for this second encounter, was in traditional Cossack dress for the head-to-head press conference.

The unified world champion remained on stage after he had faced off with Joshua to sing 'Oi u luzi chervona kalyna', a call to arms that was inspired by Ukraine's 18th century battle for independence and is now recited as a display of defiance in the face of Russia's invasion.

Usyk served as a military volunteer in Kyiv before being told he would better represent his nation by successfully defending the WBA, IBF and WBO titles he seized from Joshua almost a year ago.

Usyk, despite voicing his concerns about his war-torn homeland, appeared nerveless for the encounter in which he is regarded as the favourite.

For Joshua, there is expectation of a better showing second time around after he failed to find his way into their first meeting in which he was cleverly outboxed.

"This is a must-win for me, I know that. I like the pressure," Joshua explained minutes before the face-off. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm expecting a 12-round war. I can't really say much else. You've got to have a competitive spirit. We've set a goal. I've got goals I want to achieve in the ring on the night. The performance I can put in will dictate the outcome. I need to be disciplined enough to follow through the effort I've put in in camp."

It is a potentially career-defining fight for 'AJ', who is under immense scrutiny following the comprehensive defeat he suffered last time he was in the ring. 

Surveying the audience at the Shangri-La Hotel, a 20-minute drive away from the King Abdullah Stadium, the venue of Saturday's fight, Joshua added that he was keeping it simple.

 "I’m going to be disciplined enough so I can follow the plans through. Instinct, stay focused and get the job done, God willing, victorious.”