Anthony Joshua stirred by local clubland memories before Usyk test

British boxer says he is improving all the time going into bout at a venue that brings recollections of teenage escapades nearby

‘Oh, yeah, the Opera House,” Anthony Joshua exclaims in a box at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as his face creases with amusement and nostalgia. Rather than revealing a sudden passion for opera in Covent Garden, the world heavyweight champion relives memories of the very different Saturday nights he used to spend as a teenager clubbing in this corner of north London. The Opera House in Tottenham was one of his favourite clubs around 12 years ago when he and nine of his friends used to drive their battered cars from Watford or Finchley to have a party and cause some pretty harmless mayhem.

The 31-year-old Joshua relaxes as the stories flow from him and, at least for a while, it is possible to ignore the hundreds of people building the ring and the long walkway from the dressing rooms on the covered pitch far below where we are sitting in this vast football stadium. On Saturday night 68,000 people will cram into the arena with attention fixed on the ring where Joshua faces one of the most demanding nights of his career when he defends his WBA, WBC and IBF world titles against the unbeaten and highly skilled Oleksandr Usyk. But Joshua can enjoy a break from thinking about this testing challenge as we return to the heaving and thumping Opera House.

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Anthony Joshua keeps the pounds off to counter Oleksandr Usyk’s ringcraft

  • Champion weighs in at 240lb, his second lightest since 2014
  • Power should give Joshua edge in demanding challenge

Anthony Joshua appears to have chosen speed and fluidity as a way to counter the versatile skill-set with which Oleksandr Usyk will threaten him in the ring on Saturday night. At Friday’s weigh-in he scaled 240lb which, apart from one other occasion, is the lightest he has been since he was still a relative novice fighting against Michael Sprott almost seven years ago.

The exception occurred in December 2019 when, after losing his world heavyweight titles to Andy Ruiz Jr in a shocking defeat six months earlier, Joshua weighed 237lb in the rematch. Having been stopped by Ruiz Jr in the first fight, Joshua opted to box cautiously and move constantly around the ring against his poorly-conditioned opponent.

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