Anthony Joshua holds a three-inch height advantage over Oleksandr Usyk but alas boxing is not all about height as some giants have been floored by ‘small men’
‘A good big ‘un always beats a good little ‘un.’
‘The bigger they are the harder they fall.’
So which of these time-honoured boxing maxims will ring true later night as natural-born heavyweight Anthony Joshua defends his world titles against pumped up cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk
Size has always been the fall-back position when calling these odds. All the more so as the ring has become increasingly the land of the giants. Yet skill and speed coupled with massive punching power has often upset that equation down the decades.
Tommy Burns, a 5ft 7in French Canadian middleweight, chanced his arm at heavyweight with such success that he kept knocking out bigger men to win and hold the world title between 1906 and 1908. He remains the smallest heavyweight champion ever.
Vertically challenged fighters with more familiar names have reverberated through more modern times, keeping the six to seven-footers quaking in their boots.
Rocky Marciano, the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated, tried to claim he was 5ft 11½in but in reality stood somewhere between 5ft 9in and 5ft 10in. His reach was only 62 inches, the same as Manny Pacquiao’s, yet he flattened 43 of his 49 victims with murderous punches. Notably the over-hand right which he christened his Suzie Q.
Joe Frazier was well short of his official height of 5ft 11½in and was giving away 40lb in weight to Buster Mathis when he won the world heavyweight title with an 11th round KO at Madison Square Garden in 1968.
Muhammad Ali’s 6ft 3in proved no defence against Smokin’ Joe, who knocked down The Greatest en route to a comprehensive winning of the Fight of the Century in the same hallowed New York arena.
Mike Tyson was another who exaggerated his stature — try 5ft 10in instead of 5ft 11½in — but the tall trees kept falling to the phenomenal punching of the youngest of world heavyweight champions. Not least Frank Bruno twice, from the heights of 6ft 3in and despite his Adonis bulk.
Anthony Joshua was gushing in his praise for his challenger Oleksandr Usyk on Thursday as the pair held a respectful media conference devoid of foul-mouthing and baiting at the Tottenham Stadium.
‘I love the style in which Ukrainians like Oleksandr and Vasiliy Lomachenko fight,’ Joshua said of his opponent and his lightweight countryman. ‘I like the Ukrainian people. Those two and the Klitschkos are phenomenal people. I love everything they do. I love boxing and I love the thought of meeting another of the best boxers on the planet. By doing this we continue working to bring to boxing the respect it deserves.’
Usyk responded: ‘I respect Anthony for taking my challenge. Together we will make more important history in our sport.’On a very lively note you will say but who will have the last laugh tonight?