Anthony Joshua’s training partner has revealed the world champion has sparred more amateur fighters than professionals to prepare for Oleksandr Usyk.
Britain’s unified champion defends his WBA, WBO and IBF world titles in one of the toughest tests of his career against Usyk on Saturday night at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Usyk is a slick southpaw, an Olympic gold medallist and former cruiserweight champion, who is yet to taste defeat as a professional.
The Ukrainian had a distinguished amateur career before turning over and Joshua’s camp believes he still fights in a similar style to the unpaid ranks.
Since suffering a shock defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, AJ has tailored his sparring and camps to his opponent and brought in a number of amateurs to his camp to prepare for Usyk, including Croatian heavyweight Marko Milun.
Speaking via the Betway Insider blog, Milun lifted the lid of Joshua’s preparations and predicted the Brit will ‘fight smart’ rather than stand and trade with Usyk.
He said: ‘In the ring, Joshua is very clever and smart. He knows what to do and he does it in the right way, he does everything in the right way. I grew a lot in the time I spent with him, learnt a lot of things that I did not know. Working with Angel Fernandez and Joby Clayton, they made me a little better.
‘AJ for me was very surprising, he was very humble. He was like a guy from the local club, not the heavyweight champion, he spoke to us like a normal person. That surprised me.
‘I think he chose me and other amateurs as sparring partners because he needed guys similar to Usyk. Usyk fights like an amateur boxer more than a normal professional and maybe that’s why he wanted me and Viktor Jurk and other amateurs, the only professional in camp was Shokran Parwani when I was there.
‘I saw in camp that AJ is really smart and he does the right things and I think he’ll win this fight. Usyk is also smart but I think AJ has better qualities; he’s bigger, stronger and can punch harder. He has worked hard for this and I think he’ll beat him. AJ will be at home, the crowd will be behind him and my prediction is AJ will win comfortably. But I will tell you that this will be a smart fight, not a war.’
Usyk has used similar tactics by sparring heavyweights similar in stature to Joshua. Greek fighter Evgenios Lazaridis was involved in Usyk’s camp and believes AJ is in for the ‘toughest night of his career’ and that the Ukrainian is the techinically superior boxer.
Usyk’s training partner predicts a ‘spectacular battle’ and says AJ is in for a ‘very tough night’
Lazaridis said: ‘Being In the camp with Usyk has been great, everything is very organised and I’ve really enjoyed my time helping Usyk prepare for Joshua and being part of his elite team. I was chosen because I am similar size to Joshua and I have good physical fitness.
‘Usyk has had a great camp and is doing well – in terms of movement he moves about the ring so well and is very technical. In terms of punching power, Usyk is hitting harder than ever and has a very strong blow. He is a great fighter, an Olympic champion, and a great world champion. He’s working hard, and is rapidly moving towards his next goal of becoming heavyweight champion.
‘This fight, of course, will be the toughest of Joshua’s career because he has never met such a good and technical boxer in his career before, it is a new challenge for him. I think that for Usyk Joshua’s size will not be a problem, because he is not a small heavyweight. My prediction is a 50/50 fight. Usyk has every chance to win. I advise fans not to miss this great fight, because this fight will be the most spectacular battle as two Olympic and world champions meet.’