Jeddah-: Eddie Hearn is predicting a knockout when Anthony Joshua attempts to become a three-time world champion by defeating Oleksandr Usyk at the Rage on the Red Sea in Jeddah on Saturday.
The Matchroom Sports chairman believes both boxers go into their rematch more aggressive than their first, which saw Usyk rip the WBA ‘Super’, IBF, WBO and IBO belts from Joshua’s grip. Usyk’s victory came courtesy of a unanimous points decision, but Hearn doesn’t think their second meeting will go to the judges.
“I think they both will be aggressive,” said Hearn a week out from fight night at the Rage on the Red Sea at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Sports City Arena.
“I think Usyk’s coming in heavy. I think he’s going to try and be aggressive. He’s going to try and stand and fight with AJ, and I don’t think the fight will go past six rounds. I think you’re going to see a knockout in this fight. I think you’re going to see more aggression from both guys, and I think you’re going to see a tremendous battle.”
Having suffered defeat at the hands of Usyk last time around, the importance of victory isn’t lost on Joshua’s camp.
“We’ve got to win,” Hearn added. “It’s the ultimate of the sport, the world Heavyweight championship, and we’ve got no interest in just taking part, it’s only about victory for AJ. He did it before out there, and this is a much tougher challenge, but he’s ready. And I believe he can become a three-time heavyweight world champion in Saudi next week.”
Although thousands of miles from home, Joshua finds himself in a familiar position.
He previously regained his gold from Andy Ruiz Jr. in Saudi Arabia in December 2019, and he now returns to the Kingdom in search of returning to the Heavyweight summit once more.
The fight with Ruiz Jr. three years ago made Joshua a hero figure in Saudi Arabia and he has spent the last month in the country, fine-tuning his preparations.
Joshua recently said the kindness he has been shown by Saudis “fills me with energy” and Hearn believes his fighter’s previous experience at the Clash of the Dunes provides both comfort and confidence.
“AJ’s been out there for four weeks, and it shows you how comfortable he is out there because normally a fighter would go for a week really,” Hearn explained. “And they don’t like to be away from the home comforts, but he feels very comfortable in Saudi, and he’s got very fond memories from the Ruiz fight. He’s in a great place and ready for fight week.”
Hearn and his company played active roles alongside the Saudi Arabian government, Ministry of Sport and Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation to take both the Clash of the Dunes and the Rage on the Red Sea to the Kingdom.
The first event saw participation numbers rocket in the country and boxing in Saudi Arabia has rapidly moved in an upwards trajectory ever since. The hope is that this fight again inspires men and women in Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East as a whole, to take up the sport and Hearn is adamant that there are no better ambassadors to introduce boxing to new audiences that Joshua and Usyk.
“I think a lot of people think that those guys are just happy to go and take the money, but couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Hearn.
“They want to inspire that next generation there, and when they get that kind of response and they see those smiles, they love it. And they want that to continue.
“They’re also two great guys who give their time to people, and they’re not people who are just going to turn their nose up at others. They want to showcase boxing, they’re lovers of the sport, and if they think that boxing could flourish there, they’ll do everything they can to inspire those fans and the next generation of fighters.
“Both of them are great athletes, great individuals, they have great values, great respect, and both have tremendous amounts of time for the fans. They’re spot on.”
It’s not just the main event duo that Hearn believes can further aid boxing’s development in Saudi Arabia once the Rage on the Red Sea washes up on the Jeddah coast.
The undercard has a host of big-name fighters and high-stake fights to capture the imagination of the audience.
Chief among them for the local audience are the professional debut of Saudi-Egyptian Ziyad Almaayouf and the presence of Ramla Ali vs. Crystal Nova Garcia as the first female boxers to ever feature in an official international fight in Saudi Arabia.
Hearn is certain that this will further serve the legacy of this latest major international sporting event to land in a transformative Saudi Arabia.
“For Ramla, the first female fighter to be showcased there, is so important for boxing. It’s important for Saudi as well, so too is the [presence of Almaayouf]; what an opportunity for him. And he’s going to get a fantastic reception as well,” the Matchroom chief said.
“But everybody on this card is very lucky. I mean, this is historic. When we shot that promo, it felt like Rumble in the Jungle or the Thriller in Manila. It’s one of those iconic moments and everybody on the card, AJ included, should be very thankful for this moment. “Next week’s going to be really special, from the build-ups to the receptions, to the press conferences, to the weigh-ins, to the show itself. And the whole world will be watching Saudi Arabia next weekend.”